The Okanagan’s Response to BC’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Plan

The BC Government’s review of its Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy was very timely this year, given the emergence from a year-long state of emergency due to the COVID-19
pandemic, a record-breaking heat wave, and multiplying forest fires and smoke pollution experienced in the province this summer.

Citizens Climate Lobby – Okanagan and Okanagan Climate Hub appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback on this strategy, and prepare the following submission in August 2021:

Scientific experts agree that accumulated past emissions will likely lead to the need for costly adaptation. Climate projections for the Okanagan indicate likely lower precipitation levels, longer dry periods, more intense wildfires, and changes in seasons. The Climate Projections for the Okanagan of February 2020 published by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan states: “wildfires, flooding, and drought have already challenged local infrastructure, caused economic losses, and posed health risks to communities.” Changes are happening now, not in the distant future.

A higher investment in climate mitigation today will reduce the costs of adaptation.  Mitigation and adaptation go hand-in-hand. With our province facing unprecedented changes in climate that are likely to impact our lives and the well being of our children’s lives for decades to come, clear lines of accountability and specific funding commitments are needed. The Plan’s current outline says little about these two crucial needs.

The Province’s Clean BC plan and this accompanying Strategy are welcome, if somewhat late. The urgency for action is well stated in the Tsilhqot’in communities report “The Fires
Awakened Us”. Regarding the damage caused to their territories by the 2017 wildfires, the report states: “planning for the future of impending emergencies needed to happen
yesterday.” We agree.

We acknowledge and celebrate the government’s recent endorsement of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as important steps forward. We also recognize the leadership the government has shown in setting out provincial emission targets and a climate action plan.

Nevertheless, more will need to be done to adequately resource and recognize costs, define lines of accountability and responsibility, and alleviate the stresses of climate adaptation, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups including First Nations, migrants and newcomers, workers, homeless, LGBTQI+, families and children, and people with disabilities. In particular, the recommendations of the Tsilhqot’in Nations’ report bear repeating: to respect and heed the experience of First Nations peoples with wildfires during emergencies, to recognize and support First Nations leadership in wildfire management, and to provide sufficient financial support towards emergency preparation, particularly for remote and First Nation communities.