Cheryl Wiens, center, at one of the regular protests outside of the Township Civic Facility in the months before the vote on a climate emergency. (Tosha Lobsinger photo)

Langley Township council acknowledges climate emergency

The council will consider concrete measures starting this fall

After rejecting the idea of declaring a climate crisis in the spring, Langley Township council moved toward action at Monday’s meeting.

The council unanimously approved a motion by Councillor Petrina Arnason, acknowledging there is a “climate emergency as evidenced by scientific studies and policy predictions that indicate dire consequences arising from the breakdown of a stable climate arising from unprecedented global warming.”

There were several other measures in the motion, including a proposal that the Township create a draft “carbon budget” for both corporate and community CO2 emissions related to planning and land development.

Arnason’s motion also called for an annual report from staff on the carbon budget so council could make decisions on policy.

She acknowledged that some aspects of the plan may seem overwhelming at first.

But Arnason noted there are already initiatives started by municipal staff, either underway or in the planning stages, that could help reduce CO2 output in the Township.

Over the years, the Township has already made a number of moves towards sustainability and reducing emissions, including using some electric vehicles and creating more energy-efficient municipal buildings.

“We need political direction to move this forward,” she said.

“We all agree, we do need to look into this,” said Mayor Jack Froese.

READ MORE: Popularity of electric car chargers up 3,000% in Langley Township

The second part of Arnason’s motion, regarding the actual policy nuts and bolts of the matter, was referred to a meeting expected in the early fall.

The reconsideration followed an appearance by Cheryl Wiens of the B.C. Green Party, who urged council to take action.

“Acting is a moral imperative,” she said.

Wiens said she was thankful they voted in favour of the motion this time.

“Acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis we’re in is a good first step,” she said.

The next thing that’s needed are evidence-based emission targets and a carbon budget, she said.

Local Greens and environmentalists held small regular rallies outside of the Township hall over the last several months in the run-up to the vote.

Wiens pointed to issues such as increased forest fires and smoke, as well as droughts and powerful storms that have affected the Lower Mainland in recent years.

“These things are only going to get worse,” she said.

Council’s decision is in sharp contrast to their April reception of the same motion.

Back then, council voted to refer the climate emergency resolution and carbon budget talks to a September strategic planning meeting.

“I don’t see this as the type of emergency that we need to deal with today,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh before the April vote.

A delegation of young environmental activists and Green Party members had arrived at the April meeting bearing signs calling for climate action.

A number of other communities around B.C. and across the country have already declared climate emergencies, and in June the federal government voted to declare a national climate emergency. Other communities, including Abbotsford, have declined to pass climate emergency declarations.

READ MORE: Climate emergency decision will wait until September in Langley Township

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