Healthy Community, Healthy Province, Healthy Climate

Local governments can make a significant contribution to the growing movement to protect the global climate. While much of their control is indirect, local government decisions influence approximately half of BC’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Local governments have influence over approximately half of BC's emissions, concentrated in transportation, buildings and waste. / Environment Canada, 2007.The Toolkit outlines opportunities for reducing community-wide emissions in three sectors where local governments have authority:

Land Use | Transportation | Buildings

The infrastructure sector also includes actions that reduce community wide emissions. These actions are situated under government operations because they are often closely connected to local government activity, such as solid waste management practices, influencing local methane emissions. Local governments have more direct control over activities under government operations.

Local Governments and Citizens: A Globally Vital Role

Local governments have a vital role in the global challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They have a more direct relationship with citizens than senior levels of government through the services they deliver.

Decisions about these services shape the individual GHG profiles of British Columbians and the province's total emissions.

The BC Government's target to reduce emissions at least 33% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 is consistent with the strongest scientific evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draws on the expertise of more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries. In its 2007 report, the panel concluded that global warming is unequivocal and is "now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level."[2] If our climatic system is to avoid abrupt and catastrophic impacts to agricultural systems, forests, and water supply, commitments of this magnitude will be necessary globally.

Where we live and how we get around will be fundamentally important in meeting this challenge. Local government decisions can decisively influence these opportunities.

Community Wide and Government Operations Emissions
Community-wide emissions generally cover residential, commercial and institutional activity in buildings, transportation and waste. Accounting for these emissions is discussed in greater detail under community inventories. Government operations emissions cover a local government's own buildings, fleets, and the operation of infrastructure systems such as street lighting and waste management. They are a subset of community-wide emissions and discussed in greater detail under carbon neutral government.

 

Business Case For Climate Action

As well as protecting current and future generations from dangerous climate change impacts, taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions complements many other local priorities such as reducing air pollution, protecting agricultural land, community economic development and improving the fiscal performance of local government. This is the triple bottom line business case for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Framing your climate change actions so that they reinforce your community's objectives will influence the success of your plans and the vitality of your community.


[1] A Canadian Government paper attributed local government influence to 52% of Canada's emissions. (Municipalities Issue Table. 1988. Foundation Paper. Ottawa: Government of Canada, National Climate Change Program.) This is consistent with analysis by the BC Community Energy Association that has calculated it at 46%.
[2] IPCC. (2007). Climate Change 2007, Fourth Assessment Report. (http://www.ipcc.ch)