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OPINION – Bert’s Dilemma: Growth, housing and the climate emergency

New official community plan not addressing climate problem, says writer
New development is adding to Sooke’s already burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions. Pictured above are developments on Melrick Place and Winfield Road. (Stephen Hindrichs photo)

Alan Dolan | Contributed

I have a friend, let’s call him Bert, who wants to buy a house in Sooke. He’s spent a lot of time here and he likes the small-town feel. He’s a cautious person and he’s quite concerned about what climate change will mean for his children’s future. He was encouraged when he heard that Sooke had declared a climate emergency and aspires to be carbon neutral by 2030.

When Bert saw the plans for his 1,600-square-foot house, he started to wonder — how much will his home and family contribute to increasing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change in Sooke and for that matter on the entire planet?

RELATED: Sooke eyes new official community plan

After a bit of digging through CRD reports, Bert learned that he approximate what his house could contribute to climate change.

The manufacture of materials for his standard frame house and the construction of the building, site preparation and waste disposal would be a one-time, up-front emission of 5.9 tonnes of carbon.

Day-to-day living – driving, heating, cooking, etc. — would contribute 8.25 tonnes of carbon a year forever.

In order to clear the land of all its vegetation and trees, there would be a loss of 11.43 tonnes a year of carbon that used to be taken up by vegetation and soils on the site. The land for Bert’s house that used to be a carbon “sink” would become a carbon emitter. Bert’s house would contribute 19.68 tonnes of carbon a year forever.

Bert talked to planners at Sooke and learned there are about 1,100 dwellings approved for construction and many more to come. All those houses would result in a massive increase in greenhouse gases: 1,100 x 19.68 = 21,648 tonnes of carbon a year.

A recent CRD report states that Sooke’s present total emissions are 46,574 tonnes of carbon a year. These 1,100 new houses on the books will mean a 46 per cent increase in Sooke’s greenhouse gases. This is going in the wrong direction. Sooke is trying to reduce its emissions dramatically before 2030, not increase them!

Bert realized that one of the negative spinoffs of growing so rapidly was not only the increase in carbon emissions contributing to climate change, the loss of our carbon sink, and our resilience to climate change but also the loss of natural assets that affect our quality of life — farm and garden land, recreational green spaces, wildlife corridors, natural drainage and biodiversity. Residents of Sooke, like Bert, have said that they value these natural assets.

Bert looked at some of the proposed growth scenarios in the new official community plan and found that they were not addressing the climate problem. He came to understand that if Sooke continues to grow, we will not meet our climate targets and we will lose all that we love about this community — our small seaside town, surrounded by forests and farms.

What should Bert do?


Alan Dolan is a Transition Sooke board member.

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