Following an impassioned plea while persuading council colleagues to adopt global standards for reducing greenhouse gases in Kamloops, Coun. Arjun Singh made another bold statement.
“I am prepared to lose an election over this issue,” Singh told KTW.
Singh put forward a notice of motion on Tuesday, calling on the city to align itself with global efforts to maintain a 1.5 C temperature increase as set out in the Paris Agreement.
His notice of motion also called on staff to outline a series of efforts to attain that goal.
Setting that target would amount to a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. The notice of motion passed by a vote of 8-1, with Coun. Mike O’Reilly opposed.
In making his pitch, Singh called on council to take “bold leadership” on the issue of climate change, citing impacts in the area from extreme weather.
“This is not negotiable,” Singh told council.
“It’s not negotiable, in my view. I think that’s what we have to really think about. Are we just going to sit here? ... Think about your kids and your grandkids.
“In my case, my niece and my nephew. I don’t want to give them a world where they said, ‘Arjun, you kicked the can down the road.’”
Singh received some opposition.
Mayor Ken Christian noted the city already has a number of sustainability initiatives underway and said Kamloops is likely to reach a population of 100,000 during council’s term.
“If this is a choice between green and growth, I’m going to go with growth,” Christian said.
Coun. Bill Sarai said he preferred a blanket policy across the country. Kamloops residents, for example, are unlikely to give up their cars any time soon, he said.
“Not everyone has a little pot of cash at home to buy an electric vehicle,” Sarai said.
O’Reilly also had concerns about costs. However, his question centred on the yet-to-be-determined tasks that will come with meeting the emission-reduction targets.
Coun. Dieter Dudy suggested watering down the language of the motion to include the word “encourage” rather than “mandate” in order to prevent the inevitable backlash the city would encounter for not meeting the targets.
Staff noted, however, council was not committing to carrying out any of those tasks. Singh countered, stating he doesn’t want an out.
“I’m going to be very, very upset if I don’t get there [targets], but I don’t want an out,” Singh said.
After the decision, Singh called it a tough discussion, but noted council has set an important marker that shows the city is fully in line with global goals.
Next steps will include staff bringing back to council a series of tasks to carry out the emission-reduction goals. Council will have difficult decisions to make at that time, when price tags are attached.
Singh told KTW he would rather pay money up front and less down the road, noting the costs of fighting fires. However, spending now for something later can be politically challenging — a risk Singh is willing to take over the issue.
“I’m not a guy that, hopefully, cries wolf very often, but I’m calling alarms on this,” Singh said.
“I’m saying there is an opportunity here that we can take advantage of. If people say, ‘Arjun, you’re out to lunch’ ... I’ll be out. But I’ll feel very happy that I did my job.”
Blue Dot to go back to council
The city’s development and sustainability committee made changes earlier this week to the Blue Dot campaign community declaration, which will better align it with what council is already doing.
The initiative will go back to council at a later date for final approval.
The Blue Dot campaign is a David Suzuki Foundation initiative focusing on enshrining environmental rights — such as the right to clean air and drinking water, safe food and access to nature — in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.