Coun­cil could save us all some hot air

The Daily Courier - - OKANAGAN - RON SEY­MOUR

If Kelowna’s go­ing to wage war on cli­mate change, it’d be nice to know how the bat­tle’s go­ing. A re­li­able, ac­cu­rate and cur­rent mea­sure­ment of lo­cally pro­duced green­house gas emis­sions would seem to be an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity.

Af­ter all, if the city’s go­ing to bring in a new gaso­line tax, or pre­vent any more ne­far­i­ous drive-thrus from ever be­ing built, or move more quickly than other parts of B.C. to en­force strin­gent and po­ten­tially costly build­ing reg­u­la­tions, peo­ple will rightly ex­pect to see some progress in re­duc­ing GHG levels.

But good luck with that. The most re­cent es­ti­mate of lo­cally pro­duced green­house gas emis­sions is five years old.

And there’s no ex­pec­ta­tion among city of­fi­cials they’ll get up­dated in­for­ma­tion from the prov­ince any­time soon. Or even that when they do get some data, it’ll al­low for any kind of mean­ing­ful com­par­i­son with the 2012 level of 640,000 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide.

This was by far the most sur­pris­ing news to come out of Mon­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, and it wouldn’t even have been men­tioned by staff if not for a ques­tion from Mayor Colin Bas­ran.

Most other coun­cil­lors, as usual, were more in­ter­ested in fawn­ing over staff, of­fer­ing up repet­i­tive praise, say­ing what a great re­port it was, agree­ing with the com­ments of their fel­low coun­cil­lors, etc.

You’d think the nine peo­ple on coun­cil would oc­ca­sion­ally of­fer a di­ver­sity of opin­ion that re­flects some­thing of the wider com­mu­nity. But the bland uni­for­mity and timid con­form­ity reg­u­larly shown by this coun­cil no mat­ter what the is­sue makes you some­times won­der whey they bother hold­ing Mon­day af­ter­noon meet­ings at all.

Staff could just pro­duce what­ever re­ports and rec­om­men­da­tions strike their fancy, coun­cil could ap­prove them all without com­ment at the Mon­day morn­ing ses­sion, then ev­ery­one could head over to Earl’s for a nice tax­payer-funded lunch.

The big re­port on Kelowna’s green­houses gases and staff’s sug­ges­tions on ways to pos­si­bly re­duce them, trig­gered none of the ques­tions from coun­cil­lors that an av­er­age cit­i­zen would prob­a­bly come up with if they were forced to read it.

Like, what per­cent­age of lo­cal emis­sions re­ally comes from cars that are idling at driv­ethrus, com­pared to the tens of other thou­sands of ve­hi­cles on Kelowna roads at any given time, and wouldn’t ban­ning this sim­ple con­ve­nience amount to more of a pub­lic an­noy­ance than a sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­com­plish­ment?

Or, where’s the ev­i­dence the tran­sit sys­tem is so un­der-funded that a lo­cal gas tax is needed to gen­er­ate mil­lions of dol­lars for more buses?

Coun­cil­lors know, or they should know, that to­tal fund­ing for Kelowna Regional Tran­sit has jumped to $25 mil­lion now from $10 mil­lion a decade ago, a rate of in­crease that far out­strips in­fla­tion and which has not been matched by a com­men­su­rate rise in rid­er­ship.

Or, isn’t it just flat-out scare­mon­ger­ing and ridicu­lous non-science to sug­gest, as the re­port’s au­thors did, that this past spring’s flood­ing was in any­way re­lated to Kelowna’s green­house gases? If it doesn’t flood next year, is the green­house gas cri­sis over?

It’s likely th­ese kind of ques­tions, and many more be­sides, will be raised when the re­port is sent out from City Hall in Jan­uary to be the fo­cus of some pub­lic meet­ings. The peo­ple will prob­a­bly be in­ter­ested in scru­ti­niz­ing the doc­u­ment in a way the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives showed ab­so­lutely no in­cli­na­tion to do on Mon­day.

But Bas­ran, to his credit, did re­mark on the dou­bly ab­surd sit­u­a­tion of there be­ing no in­for­ma­tion from the prov­ince on lo­cal green­house gas emis­sions that’s more re­cent than five years old, and the like­li­hood that mean­ing­ful com­par­isons to the sit­u­a­tion that ex­isted in 2012 will not be pos­si­ble with what­ever in­for­ma­tion is even­tu­ally re­leased by Vic­to­ria be­cause of method­olog­i­cal changes.

“It just seems crazy to me that we have no up­dated stats,” he said. “It’s a bit silly.”

But Kelowna’s trans­porta­tion-re­lated green­house gas emis­sions, like those of ev­ery other city, will prob­a­bly fall in the years ahead due to the ever-in­creas­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of au­to­mo­biles, and in par­tic­u­lar the slow but steady rise in the pop­u­lar­ity of ve­hi­cles with al­ter­na­tive fuel sources.

This sim­ple fact, which has noth­ing at all to do with city ini­tia­tives or re­ports or lec­tur­ing, was noted by Coun. Luke Stack, who once again ap­peared the most grounded in re­al­ity dur­ing Mon­day’s oth­er­wise airy dis­cus­sion on cli­mate change.

Stack, who drives a plug-in elec­tric hy­brid, said he goes to a drive-thru “ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing” and doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

Ron Sey­mour is a Daily Courier re­porter. Phone: 250-470-0750. Email: ron.sey­

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