The working group on climate justice is “disappointed” after Vancouver City Council rejected the climate justice charter
For more than two years, Navdeep Chhina and 15 other members of the City of Vancouver’s Climate Justice Task Force worked to create a Climate Justice Charter to help the city’s employees address climate and justice issues.
On Wednesday, the City Council rejected that charter.
“It doesn’t feel rewarding,” Chhina said. “The charter said let’s do things fairly so that the people who bear the greatest burden are not also the ones who pay the greatest price.”
The working group was formed in 2020 to provide information on how the city’s climate emergency action plan (CEAP) “could best incorporate justice either in the development or implementation of policies,” the charter describes.
The group was expanded a year later with the “dual purpose of advising employees on implementation” of CEAP and co-development of the Climate Justice Charter.
The Charter documents some of the lived experiences of Indigenous, Black and People of Color and people with disabilities and provides recommendations for promoting equity and racial justice in sustainability work.
Rather than setting strict guidelines, Chhina says it was created to help city employees build on current policies and develop new ones, making it clear that climate policy cannot succeed without addressing social injustices.
A motion to implement the charter was tabled earlier this week, but was rejected by a majority of the ABC Vancouver Council.
“I think the work that has been prepared for us is something that we could use as one of many tools,” ABC Vancouver Coun said. Mike Klassen. “But the fact is that we can’t tell employees how to do their jobs.”
Klassen said the city already has a chief equity officer and an existing equity framework strategy focused on building a more climate-resilient city.
Ginger Gosnell-Myers, a charter advisor and fellow in decolonization and urban Indigenous planning at Simon Fraser University, says it’s not the responsibility of one person on the council to make sure work for climate justice gets done, it’s the responsibility of all staff, too helping residents adapt to a changing climate, including mitigating the effects of extreme weather events.
“People are really disappointed with this decision that has been made,” said Gosnell-Myers, who is a member of the Nisga’a and Kwakwak’awakw Nations.
“The council is showing us what they think is important and what they are telling us is justice and reconciliation and climate change is not important. We don’t have to track it. We don’t have to be held responsible for this. “
The move was also disappointed by councilors Christine Boyle, Adriane Carr and Pete Fry, who voted to implement the charter.
Climate justice remains top priority: City Councilor
Klassen says creating a just action plan for climate action remains a top priority.
“We kind of run out of time to make symbolic gestures. We have to actually achieve achievable goals,” he said.
He cites the work of city officials who have reviewed the use of renewable fuel sources and created a framework for carbon offsets, which the city does not currently have.
He added that the motion presented to the Council by the working group was “prescriptive”.
“The motion said staff will do so, even though we actually know things are constantly evolving,” he said.
“We need to take tools like this and perspectives like this and incorporate them in the same way we do in our work around justice.”
“It feels like we’re going backwards”
Earlier this week, the Parks Authority voted to remove the temporary bike lane to restore Stanley Park Drive to two lanes for vehicular traffic.
The board also proposed a dedicated bike path for 2024, but that would mean cutting down trees in the park, Chhina said.
The council also voted to end the 25-cent charge on single-use drinking cups.
“Our elected officials are not visionaries, they are not leaders,” he said.
Gosnell-Myers says moves like these indicate “environmental ignorance.”
“The priorities of this council are all about business,” she said.
“It feels like we’re walking backwards and burying our heads in the sand at the same time.”