Burnaby City Hall. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Burnaby council asked to endorse ‘fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty’

The fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty has already been endorsed by several Metro Vancouver municipalities, Toronto and others globally.

By Dustin Godfrey | January 24, 2022 |5:00 am

Several groups of climate activists will be gathering at Burnaby City Hall today to show support for a coming motion on “fossil fuel non-proliferation.”

The motion is expected to be brought today by Burnaby Greens Coun Joe Keithley, in support of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

The proposed treaty is modelled after the 1970 nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation treaty, and it stands on three pillars: non-proliferation, phase-out, and a just transition.

That would mean an “immediate end” to expanding coal, oil, and gas production, and winding down existing production.

A just transition involves “global support to ensure no worker, community, or country is left behind,” meaning supporting jobs for workers who would be affected by phasing out fossil fuels.

“While coal, oil, and gas are responsible for 86% of all carbon emissions in the past decade, many governments continue with business as usual,” reads a flyer on the treaty.

“Not only do most ‘net-zero’ plans fail to address fossil fuels, they often rely on unproven solutions to allow for the continued use of fossil fuels.”

While advocates for Canada’s oil and gas sector have often noted the industry is simply meeting a demand that will otherwise be met by other producers, a briefing note on the treaty suggests the issue requires supply-side measures.

“Over the last few decades, negotiations have focused on reducing emissions rather than the production of fossil fuels. The success of these efforts has been limited by industry,” reads the briefing note.

“We need to complement measures to reduce emissions and the ‘demand’ for fossil fuels with measures to reduce production and the ‘supply’ of fossil fuels.”

Starting with cities

The campaign is targeting municipalities in a bottom-up advocacy effort.

It includes endorsements from cities like Los Angeles, Barcelona, Sydney, and Toronto, which was the first in Canada to sign on. Here in BC, New Westminster, the District of North Vancouver, Vancouver, and West Vancouver have all endorsed the agreement.

On top of that, over 1,000 organizations and more than 150,000 individuals have signed on globally, from world leaders to religious leaders to academics to doctors.

Roslyn Hart, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), said Keithley’s motion is expected to be passed by council. She said she had heard some hesitancy from some councillors who cited jobs as a concern.

Hart said she countered with the argument that having “wildfires and atmospheric rivers, flooding, and so on—that doesn’t create jobs.”

Despite the apparent hesitancy, Hart said she has heard from most, if not all, councillors that they will vote in favour of it.

“It not only takes away jobs, it takes away human lives. People lose their livelihoods because of it,” she said. “[We need] jobs for people that are clean jobs, not jobs that are destroying the environment, creating more of this mess that we’re in.”

Using their influence

While municipalities don’t exactly hold legal power over provincial and federal governments, which hold the cards on fossil-fuel production policy, Hart said they do have the ears of officials in senior levels of government.

“The other levels of government pay attention, especially if a number of cities in the Lower Mainland signs on, the government of BC can’t turn a blind eye to that,” she said.

“Burnaby’s already signed the climate emergency motion that was put forth a while back. So it’s a similar kind of thing but this one is global. … It’s a very peaceful way to try and get the changes that we need.”

On top of BROKE, a number of different BC-based groups are also participating in the campaign, including Dogwood, Climate Convergence, and Force of Nature, which Hart said is spearheading the Burnaby effort.

And on top of Keithley, she said Burnaby Citizens’ Association Coun Alison Gu has also reached out to the group to support the effort.

Hart said a number of groups have expressed an intent to join the rally on Monday, including Babies for Climate Action, Sustainabiliteens, and some SFU groups.

However, the actual number of people participating isn’t yet known. She added that while many will be showing up at 3:30pm to greet councillors as they attend an in-camera meeting prior to the regular meeting, others will not be showing up until 5pm due to work commitments.

She also noted the group will not be going inside city hall on account of COVID.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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