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Youth pitch Green New Deal to Comox Valley Regional District

Ben Mason, Lister de Vitré already working with Cumberland council on issues
Ben Mason (left) and Lister de Vitré worked with Cumberland on a Green New Deal earlier this year, and are working with the Comox Youth Climate Council to do the same with the regional district. Record file photo

Two young men who brought their plan for a Green New Deal to Cumberland’s council earlier this year are now spreading their message to other local governments.

Lister de Vitré and Ben Mason appeared, along with Marie-Gabrielle Béchard of the Comox Youth Climate Council (CYCC), before the Comox Valley Regional District at the board meeting on July 13.

The plan is to get local governments to commit to practices that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and incorporate environmental sustainability practices but also consider other related issues such as Indigenous rights, equity, affordable housing, food security and safe drinking water.

“Our Green New Deal touches on a lot of different areas,” Mason said, adding the recent heat wave shows the effects of climate change.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland looks to move Green New Deal forward

De Vitré said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. He also said that while individual actions are important in facing these challenges, there has to be a role for governments.

“There’s only so much that individual action can do, and that’s why we’re going to a regional level,” he said.

He said governments need to ask themselves if they are prepared for a climate emergency, whether current policies are enough and whether they have reduced emissions sufficiently.

Béchard said the Comox Youth Climate Council wants officials to take the issue seriously. She provided some background about the CYCC, which is a group of youth ages 13-25 concerned about climate issues. As to the Green New Deal, she said, “Locally, this means improving sustainability and quality of life.”

Board members were responsive to working with the youth. Area B director Arzeena Hamir credited them for producing a comprehensive document that examines not only greenhouse gas emissions but other social issues. She also agreed the recent heat wave is making more people accept these issues.

“I think the last couple of weeks have surely woken everybody up to the seriousness of what can happen,” she said.

Others appreciated the breadth of the document and its inclusion of many issues. “This is a remarkable piece of work,” said Will Cole-Hamilton, a Courtenay councillor and CVRD director.

At present, the board is having CVRD staff examine how the ideas in the Green New Deal can be incorporated into regional district business or which are already happening, and bring the information back to the board.

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