June Trust Council on Galiano Addresses Climate Change

Susan Yates Special to the Sounder.

Part 2 of 3 pieces covering the June Trust Council meeting

Wednesday, July 24 2019

Much of Council’s work done at the June 18-20 meeting on Galiano focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

At the previous March Council meeting, Chair Peter Luckham was directed to write to all Regional Districts in the Trust Area, and to the Provincial and Federal Ministers of Environment, stating that the Islands Trust is serious about meeting the climate action goals declared by these agencies.

Requesting the necessary resources for the Trust to focus on climate change action is central to these commitments.

Trust Council also directed staff to coordinate climate action strategies with First Nations in the Trust Area, and to continue working to reduce the carbon footprint of Islands Trust operations.

The Islands Trust is signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter and is committed to using every planning tool available (and to request more from senior governments if necessary) to combat climate change.

All planning decisions by Local Trust Committees over the past eight years have included a climate change lens; in addition, all LTCs have adopted specific policies in their Official Community Plans and land use bylaws to address climate change.

On all of the 13 Trust Islands, climate change impacts are considered in staff reports on development applications and/or land use bylaw changes.

At Council, there was a lively and concerned discussion about the impacts of climate change (global warming at or above 1.5 C), which include: wetter fall seasons; drought conditions in summer; more extreme weather events; warmer winters with no frost; rise in sea level and erosion of shorelines; species shifts for local flora and fauna.

Focusing on the density of built structures (their size and proximity to other structures, and to areas in need of environmental protection), requiring permeable and smaller parking areas, encouraging local food production, and reducing transportation emissions are a few practical examples of how land use planning can address climate action.

What Galiano has accomplished to address the climate crisis was part of the “field trip” that often is scheduled as part of Trust Council meetings, and is one reason why it is important for Council to rotate amongst the 13 Trust Areas.

A visit to the Galiano Conservancy Association’s remarkable Learning Centre was not just inspiring, it was astonishing to see the work done, and planned, to address climate change.

The Conservancy on Galiano works with the Salish Sea Renewable Energy Co-Op (SSREC) which to date has accomplished: • 57 solar systems installed; 1100 solar panels; 364 kw of electrical capacity • saving 115 tonnes of carbon/year; taking 300 cars off the road • 2019 bulk purchase of solar systems to double capacity of many public buildings • advocacy to maintain net metering systems • community-based solar security and climate crisis adaptation.

 Working with SSREC, the Galiano Conservancy and community is part of the southern Gulf Island solar powerhouse, and it doesn’t stop there.

The Conservancy runs school, public and professional programs to help all public sectors reduce their carbon footprint.

Most impressive are the demonstration wind turbines, micro-hydro set-up, solar arrays, insulated concrete foundation (using 30 per cent less concrete and avoiding waste from forms), and beautiful, energy-conserving landscaping.

I must confess that I was smitten with all of this impressive climate change work, and also grateful that I have been a member of the Galiano Conservancy since its inception exactly 30 years ago (when I was a trustee for Gabriola).

A visit to the Galiano Learning Centre to see its exemplary work is worth any islander’s time and commitment to island stewardship.

Returning to Trust Council after this tour, the Wednesday afternoon session began with delegations from the public, the first being Gabriolan Steve Earle, on behalf of the newly-formed (on Gabriola) BC Community Bus Coalition.

Steve gave a compelling presentation to Trust Council, requesting support in lobbying the Provincial Government for changes to regulations governing community (volunteer-run) bus systems.

The best part of Steve Earle’s presentation was the climate-saving story of how he got to Council on Galiano, starting from Gabriola at 6:30 a.m. in a kayak bound for Montague Harbour on Galiano.

The winds rose quickly that morning, and by 8:30 Steve’s kayak had overturned and he watched his paddle bob away as he clung to the kayak and washed ashore onto Valdes Island.

His talk was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and he wandered the empty shoreline of Valdes looking for a human to convey a message.

There aren’t many humans anywhere on this neighbouring island, but Steve found, unbelievably, a paddle – a canoe paddle.

He wasted no time paddling to Montague Harbour, arriving at the other end of Galiano (hitchhiking) in time for his presentation, looking calm, happy and quite salty. I am pleased to report that Trust Council voted unanimously to support the Coalition’s request for provincial funding and regulatory changes to help (small) community bus systems lower our transportation carbon footprint. 

And Steve got back to Gabriola later that day, with a kayak paddle from the marina on Galiano Island.