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Report indicates Williams Lake is far behind in climate action

Inquiry from students prompts city to request a report on possible actions to address climate change
Third Planet Crusade and Climate Strike action leaders Emma Kruus and Julia Zirnhelt stand in front of Williams Lake’s city hall with some of the signs they made out of salvaged bark at a climate strike protest a few months ago. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

The city of Williams Lake is looking at what can now be done for climate change, after an email from two local activists prompted a report showing the city has not met climate action commitments.

Students Julia Zirnhelt and Ella Kruus contacted the city in February of this year to ask what Williams Lake is doing to work towards the climate goals set when the city signed on to the B.C. Climate Action Charter.

Julia and Ella commended the actions they had noted the city has taken, such as wildfire hazard reduction, installing electric car charging stations, recycling and waste reduction programs and water conservation, but expressed concern not enough is being done.

“We are concerned that us humans are not acting fast enough to secure a just transition from fossil fuels,” said their email, after stating there are less than 10 years to transition to a carbon-zero economy.

“So we are asking you what you are going to do to negate the effects of the climate crisis,” stated the email.

This prompted city to have staff provide a report so the city could respond to the inquiry.

The resulting report by the city’s Recovery Coordinator Natalie Swift was presented at a regular city council meeting on June 7, 2022 and it indicates there are shortfalls in both the city’s emissions reporting and in meeting their emission reduction targets.

The city of Williams Lake had signed onto the B.C. Climate Action Charter in 2007. The city also joined the Partners for Climate Action Protection in 2010, an initiative led by Local Governments for Sustainability and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The city also included climate action plans in its official community plan.

All of these included a number of commitments towards becoming more sustainable. The city committed to work toward becoming carbon neutral in local government operations, measure and report community greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and to create complete, compact, energy-efficient communities. One specific target included in the commitments was to reduce corporate and community greenhouse gas emissions to 33 per cent below 2008 emissions by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

The report indicated the city has not done annual corporate GHG emission inventories sine 2013 due to reduced capacity and loss of institutional knowledge after staffing changes.

The report has, however, led mayor and council to now direct staff to work on a report to present at a future committee of the whole meeting to review “the tools the city could adopt to meet its climate change action commitments.”

The official community plan includes items the city planned to do in terms of transportation, infrastructure, land use, energy systems and waste management which would reduce GHG emissions.

The staff report points to a newly launched tool to help inventory emissions and recommended a report provide information on available programs, services and funding opportunities and an estimate of city resources required to implement them.

Read more: WATCH: Williams Lake students strike over climate change concerns

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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