Council chambers filled on Monday, July 8 just prior to a presentation from Amy Vallarino of the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee who requested the city join other municipalities by declaring a climate emergency and taking more leadership on the situation. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm politicians urged to declare climate emergency, create action plan

To applause, city environment committee member acknowledges steps already taken, requests more

Although council chambers in city hall were nearly empty of spectators for most of the July 8 afternoon council meeting, things changed abruptly just prior to a presentation on climate leadership.

About 50 residents filed in to hear the presentation of Amy Vallarino, speaking on behalf of the city’s environmental advisory committee.

She asked that the city acknowledge there is a climate emergency, and then develop a climate action plan that would be used to guide the city in all its activities, planning and endeavours.

She spoke of the wildfires of 1998 that burned dangerously close to Salmon Arm and asked: “That was 20 years ago – where are we now?”

Climate change is already here in Salmon Arm, she said, and referred to the smoke-filled summer skies of the past couple of years.

Vallarino pointed to the May 27 town hall meeting on a Green New Deal for Canada.

She said citizens of Salmon Arm are ready to take serious action against climate change.

Read more: Salmon Arm teen takes enthusiastic action on climate change

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Salmon Arm would not be the first municipality to write a climate action plan, she said, pointing to several communities which have.

“The plan is to take the carbon footprint into every decision the city makes.”

She said Salmon Arm has already employed several good steps such as the capture of methane gas at the landfill, the banning of single-use plastic bags, the addition of composting, reducing greenhouse gas in buildings, working on a hybrid fleet of vehicles, introducing LED lights, solar energy and more.

Vallarino referred to the city’s climate action reserve and suggested perhaps it could be used to hire a staff person dedicated to climate action.

She said declaring a climate emergency would get citizens ready, moving beyond the debating stage; would help with setting priorities; and would assist in focusing on real, achievable results.

Members of council present expressed appreciation for Vallarino’s presentation, which had been met with applause from the gallery. (Mayor Alan Harrison and Couns. Tim Lavery and Chad Eliason were absent)

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren, chair of the city’s environmental advisory committee, said council was feeling fortunate.

“Usually we get a crowd like this when there’s people against something…”

She went on, her voice catching with emotion.

“I am proud to be part of a community that is thinking globally and acting locally,” she said, thanking the committee. “We want to thank you for pushing us to work harder to make sure we can get to a place where we can save what we have…”

Lindgren said she would defer making a notice of motion until the next council meeting when more council members would be present.

Read more: 2018 – City’s carbon footprint grows

Read more: Canadian communities responding to climate change

Read more: Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond thanked the committee and said it’s not working alone, noting every municipality is taking action, based on information from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“We are not waiting for the province, we are not waiting for the feds, we will do this on our own if we have to.”

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he appreciated Vallarino listing the good things the community has done. He also suggested waiting until the mayor returns and, maybe, until the Union of BC Municipalities convention in the fall when the city could collaborate with other municipalities.

When council does move forward, he said it would be important to hold a public input session.


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