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Climate Justice Victoria wants to put fossil fuels on ice

As major climate conference COP28 begins overseas, ice sculpture on the legislature lawn represents the ticking clock on the climate imperative

Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Climate Justice Victoria wants to put fossil fuels on ice

As major climate conference COP28 begins overseas, ice sculpture on the legislature lawn represents the ticking clock on the climate imperative

Mary Stewart and fellow Climate Justice Victoria member Photo: Sidney Coles Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Mary Stewart and fellow Climate Justice Victoria member Photo: Sidney Coles Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Climate Justice Victoria wants to put fossil fuels on ice

As major climate conference COP28 begins overseas, ice sculpture on the legislature lawn represents the ticking clock on the climate imperative

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Climate Justice Victoria wants to put fossil fuels on ice
Mary Stewart and fellow Climate Justice Victoria member Photo: Sidney Coles Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Climate Justice Victoria wants to put fossil fuels on ice

The environmental group, Climate Justice Victoria (CJV) brought a large ice sculpture to the lawn of the BC legislature today, said organizer and spokesperson Mike Hudema “as a symbol of the limited time that we have to act on the climate crisis and to demand the BC government freeze their LNG and fracking expansion plans.”

Hudema acknowledges that “we should have acted 30 or 40 years ago.” But, he said, “this is a situation that we're in. We know that we're in a time of crisis. We've seen that impact on communities right across this province and right across this country and right across the globe. And we need more ambition and more action from everybody. And that action can’t be taken if we're also going to expand the problem at the same time.”

The CJV action took place outside the provincial legislative body but organizers noted that multiple levels of government must coordinate their efforts if they are to bring about impactful change in the climate crisis arena.

Members of Victoria’s climate action team were also out for the event. Laura Barendt said she and her colleagues “wanted to show the folks out there that they support climate action, the work that we're all trying to do.”

In March 2019, Victoria joined jurisdictions across the world in declaring a climate emergency, recognizing the severity of climate risks and the need for bold and sustained action to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. The city also declared its ambitions to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Like Victoria, municipalities across the CRD are working towards climate solutions. The CRD published its five-year Climate Action Strategy in 2021 that clearly demonstrates the interweaving of federal, provincial and municipal legislation to meet regional sustainability and climate action targets.

When asked what makes him feel optimistic, Hudema pointed to the fact that “we have huge potential when it comes to renewable energy. We have much better ways of moving people around in responsible ways. We have ways of reimagining our cities in a way that's climate friendly and economically just, and those are the types of solutions that we should be embracing, not expanding fossil fuels, not accelerating this problem and accelerating a crisis that literally is affecting everyone.”

In its 2018 Climate Leadership Plan, the City of Victoria stated that “a seamless and integrated mobility system prioritizes low carbon transportation including walking, biking, public transit and shared electric mobility options.”  To that end, it amended the Zoning Bylaw 2018 and Zoning Regulation Bylaw No. 80-159 to require EV charging infrastructure in all new residential developments and some commercial developments. It is also aiming at broader initiatives that include public transportation and the way commercial goods move through the city.

Wide use of low carbon modes of transportation is one way the city hopes its climate plan 2050 targets can be achieved. The goal is ambitious. One of those ambitions, according to the plan, is to see 100% of BC Transit buses in Victoria be powered by renewable energy sources 2030. That means the integration of transportation system diversity and the expansion of electric buses, including BC Transit and other commercial fleets.

The plan’s narrative of reducing fossil-fueled transportation with renewable based modes of transport aligns with Climate Justice’s action at the legislature and call to end fossil fuel expansion and its action.

Council of Canadians representative Barbara Mitchell-Pollock hopes legislators will come out on their lunch breaks to see the sculpture. “They’re all busy, they are busy with other bumps and trying to get legislation passed isn’t easy.”

Hudema’s Climate Justice Victoria colleague and master’s student Mary Stewart said she doesn’t want to let legislators in the building behind the statute off the hook and resists the message that it’s up to individuals to try to roll back the climate crisis.

“This message of individual responsibility has been bombarding us from all sides for decades and decades. And a lot of it is due to a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo and ongoing fossil fuel expansion,” said  Stewart. “And a lot of it is messaging coming directly from the fossil fuel industry and it's bullshit. Spending time being worried about your personal carbon footprint can be part of your action, but it's something that often keeps us from taking part in collective action.”

She holds no punches about the reason why they brought the ice sculpture to melt slowly outside the institution where lawmakers have the real power to implement systems changes on climate, social, labour and environmental outcomes—all of which are implicated in the kind of systems change that is necessary to counter the current crisis.

“We need to be holding governments and corporations to account,” she said. “I think it's important for people to start to think about who really has the power and control to do what we demand.”  

Hudema said that no legislators had reached out to him or made commitments to be available for the event, however he did note that the BC Greens had posted it on their social media platforms.

When Hudema was asked what are the most impactful and immediate changes he wants to see he said, “we need to stop expanding fracking and LNG in this province. We need to increase our climate targets and we need to act to actually meet them.”

Stewart went further. “We start to enact a just transition that doesn't leave workers behind that provides for them. At the end of the day,” she said, “this is about what kind of life, what kind of world we want to live in.”

It takes legislators from all levels of government to create the kind of world Stewart, at 24, wants to live in. The ice sculpture will be on the lawn until 5:30pm Thursday, and the group is in discussion with the legislature to see how long it can remain there.

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