Major Milestone Reached for Long-awaited 2030 Climate Action Plan - Transition Salt Spring has launched an online public engagement survey, giving Salt Spring Islanders a big opportunity to tell their leaders what they want to see in a climate action plan for their island home.
“We’re really excited to offer Salt Springers this unique opportunity to participate online to help develop a climate action plan for our community," says Darryl Martin, chair of the volunteer committee working in cooperation with local officials to develop the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan. “We’re lucky to be one of six communities across Canada piloting this forward-looking community climate action tool.”
With COVID-19 making in person public meetings impossible, the online tool couldn’t have come at a better time. Participants are able to vote on policy options and community actions, and build a plan that works to reduce emissions as well as to prepare Salt Spring for higher wildfire risks and more severe winter storms.
“Think crowd-sourcing for climate action,” says committee member Tarah Stafford and co-founder of the Carbon Budget Project at Stafford’s non-profit eDemocracy. “Basically, this innovative online public engagement platform lets us all choose the best options which will have the most public support for helping Salt Spring reduce emissions 50% by 2030.”
“Political leaders can take faster action when there is strong community support,” says Salt Spring Island Trustee Laura Patrick, also an ex-officio member of the steering committee developing the plan. “Surveys like this help guide how we best serve islanders and our island as we wrestle with the climate crisis.”
“I am looking forward to the results,” says CRD Director Gary Holman, also an ex-officio committee member and who supported gas tax funding for the project. “If Transition Salt Spring can hear from, say, 1,000 islanders that we need to take far more aggressive steps on climate change, that helps me line up support for more action at the CRD.”
Results of the survey will be incorporated into the Salt Spring Climate Action Plan, which will include recommendations for government and community members to address the climate emergency.
About the Climate Action Plan 2.0
Transition Salt Spring has developed a Climate Action Plan which will be released to stakeholders for comment May 2020, and to the public through an online public engagement tool during the same period. The Plan includes 250 recommendations across six areas including transportation, agriculture, buildings, infrastructure, forests, freshwater, and land use.
The Plan’s goal is to reduce emissions on Salt Spring 50% over 2007 levels by 2030, and to zero on a net basis by 2050. Recommendations range from building an on-island chipping and composting facility, and providing comprehensive agricultural support to help farmers grow more food, to building infrastructure to protect Ganges Village, and enhancing the island’s forests.
In developing the Plan, the key finding for Transition Salt Spring has been the value of forests on Salt Spring in storing carbon, and in protecting the island from wildfires. Local writer and environmental activist Briony Penn worked with a team of forest experts to quantify the carbon losses from the Beddis Road logging and was startled to find that logging one hectare of forest results in emissions equivalent to taking about 1,000 return flights to Mexico. These types of discoveries and accompanying scientific data have guided the 30 or so volunteers from a range of disciplines who have been developing the Plan since July 2019.
The Plan calls for a range of tools to be used to tackle the climate crisis locally. They include incentives, training, taxes, and regulatory change. Some of the big ticket items in the plan include the
- completion of an off-road trail system across the island for biking and other forms of ‘active transportation’
- construction of an on-island chipping and composting facility to create a local source of nutrients for island growers and limit burning or off-island export of wood waste and compostables
- extensive restoration of critical forest and freshwater habitats to help Salt Spring Island better withstand the climatic shifts already underway.
Two other keys to achieving the Plan’s indirect and direct emission reductions targets are the
- conversion of the island’s 9,200 fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles or a modal shift to other forms of transportation such as better (and electrified) bus service and safe cross-island cycling infrastructure, and the
- reduction in the carbon footprint of the food we eat -- be it a switch to a legume-based diet, or preferring sustainably raised local or off-island pork or chicken over beef which has a very high carbon footprint mostly due to methane emissions.
On island transportation is the largest direct source of emissions on Salt Spring followed by logging and BC Ferries. The largest source of indirect emissions by far is food, 94% of which arrives on Salt Spring via long supply chains and is often grown using carbon intensive methods. Contrary to popular belief, transportation of food accounts for only a small fraction of the total emissions associated with our food. A hothouse tomato grown in Delta can have a higher carbon footprint per calorie than Salt Spring raised lamb for example. Nevertheless, encouraging the growth of regenerative local agriculture is good for our local economy, the land, and our own food security on Salt Spring Island.
The completed Plan will be released by September 2020 after public and stakeholder engagements are completed and input incorporated. More than 1,500 Salt Spring residents have registered to participate in the Climate Action Plan engagement process to date.
To participate in the online public engagement underway until June 20th, go to https://saltspringclimate.ethelo.net/
About Transition Salt Spring
Transition Salt Spring Society (TSS) was established in 1997 to provide information and education about a path to an environmentally zero carbon future. It is part of the international Transition Town movement that began in 2007 in Totnes, UK. TSS oversaw the development of the Salt Spring Island Community Energy Strategy in 2005 and this updated version of the Climate Action Plan, CAP 2.0. TSS participated in the first Climate Action Plan in 2011, which was led by the Climate Action Council, established by local elected officials.