I’ve enjoyed seeing folks use the public parklet at The Stir this summer to take a break from the sun. However, it makes me think about our need for more tree cover, especially where folks can rest under that shade without being asked to leave, because they’re obstructing a business, or haven’t purchased a coffee.
This past September, the City of Kamloops released their Community Climate Action Plan’s (CCAP) Implementation Report, a little over a year since the CCAP was announced in June 2021. The CCAP is primarily “focused on GHG mitigation with some actions that also contribute to resilience, such as through increasing tree canopy cover, utilizing green infrastructure, encouraging regenerative agriculture, supporting renewable energy projects, and promoting better-insulated homes with heat pumps that offer both heating and cooling“ (CCPA 2-22 Implementation Report, p. 46-7).
The 2022 report addresses some equity and climate justice considerations in the city’s first year of implementation, including “the distribution of trees in Kamloops in relation to socio-economic factors requires further study. Trees, green roofs, and vegetation can help reduce urban heat island effects by shading building surfaces, deflecting radiation from the sun, and releasing moisture into the atmosphere; therefore, it is important to assess whether these benefits are being equitably distributed” (CCPA 2-22 Implementation Report, p. 43).
It is important for our community to advocate for follow up on this consideration, and other climate justice challenges in the CCAP, with the city. When the city begins to look at how to equitably distribute canopy cover, we need to make sure they are taking into account if there will be enough canopy cover in public spaces for folks to rest under. This is an especially important consideration, as already vulnerable populations, like those with substance use disorders, disability, and the elderly, are most susceptible to both the impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat, and systemic challenges, like homelessness, which means, at certain times, outdoor shade may be these people’s only way to combat heat (Mello, 2023).
So what is climate justice? And why does it matter?
Climate Justice centres diverse human perspectives and experiences in the way we take action on climate change. Climate justice recognizes that “climate change is causing a multitude of detrimental social, economic, health, and other impacts on vulnerable communities who have contributed the least to the climate crisis”, (Nakat, 2023). It is important to recognize that the effects of climate change have been caused by, and continue to perpetuate, our colonialist society and the oppression of minority groups. Just because you can escape from wildfire smoke and heat waves in a well insulated home, doesn’t mean that everyone else has access to the same climate adaptations to keep them safe and comfortable. Recognizing this, and responding to it by pressuring systems and institutions to take mitigating measures, rather than solely adaptation measures, not only helps our climate’s health in the long run, but helps dismantle a system of continued discrimination against vulnerable groups by putting their needs and voices at the forefront of this work.
These groups most affected by climate change and colonialism have been asking for climate justice since the civil rights movement of the 1960s (Carbon Brief). Recently, the Indigenous Climate Action Data Quilt was released, which documents climate justice initiatives in Indigenous Communities around B.C. BIPOC folk have been advocating for a more just and equitable climate action for decades, and it is up to us to help elevate their voices in local government to help fight for climate justice in our communities.
BC First Nations Climate Action Data Quilt
The City of Kamloops is on the right track with their implementation of the CCAP, but it can be better. As a community, we can continue to advocate for climate justice in Kamloops by speaking to City Council, showing up to Public Hearings, and centering diverse experiences in our minds when we approach conversations on climate change.
Last year, the Kamloops Food Policy Council made seven policy recommendations to the city in advance of the 2022 municipal election, including recommendations on public spaces, healthy ecosystems, and decolonizing the municipality. You can learn more about these topics and our recommendations on our website: https://kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com/food-and-the-city/.