This week the BC Green Caucus has been asking Ministers in Question Period about the level of preparedness of their specific Ministry for climate change.
In order for the provincial government to address climate change it must happen across the whole of government. Ministry by ministry, sector by sector.
I had the opportunity to inquire about what we are doing to prepare for climate change in health and education delivery.
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned we only have a dozen years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
Health care is already over 40 percent of the provincial budget. As I have seen firsthand in Saanich North and the Islands and across the province, we have an aging population. Currently we’re struggling to deliver basic primary care to many of our citizens. We face a threat of increasing sea level rise, water shortages and wildfires, all of which will add to the financial burden of health care delivery.
If we act with urgency, we can couple strong climate policies with an approach that will also improve the health and well-being of people that we serve. If we don’t, the implications on health care services could be overwhelming.
The time to act is now, and it requires an all-of-government approach. The health risks associated with climate change are formidable.
What are the greatest climate change–related risks and opportunities facing your ministry, and how are you prepared to deal with both?
Hon. A. Dix:
I thank the member for his question. It’s a significant one, I think, for all members of this House, all people in British Columbia and, indeed, the world. As the member will know, the World Health Organization has identified climate change as the single biggest risk to health in the 21st century. It’s a significant issue for all of us.
I think that it’s one of the reasons why I note the member’s question that we cannot act in silos on this question. The work my colleague the Minister of Environment, in dealing with climate action, is a public health initiative as well as an environmental and economic one.
In addition to that, health authorities and the Ministry of Health are working hard on educational materials, prepared educational materials to help health care providers and citizens to deal with the risk of climate change. We’re working with other ministries and the Ministry of Environment on risk assessments, because there are risk assessments and issues in the future — issues with potential risks, such as the spread of Lyme disease and the impact of heat waves on citizens — in particular, seniors.
Finally, we have to make our system more resilient. It’s why health authorities are taking the lead in terms of reducing emissions and have — to be fair — for some time.
Also we are building new health care facilities, particularly in the Interior — in Fort St. James, in Terrace, working at Dawson Creek and Williams Lake, improving services in Quesnel, Penticton, Kamloops and so on. The resiliency of our health care institutions is so important at a time when climate risks are greater. All of us and all members of the House, I think, will support these initiatives which help us to prepare for the challenges of climate change in the future.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
There’s no question fossil fuels have contributed significantly to human advancement. They effectively allowed us to transition our industrial practices, spur economic growth and lift people out of poverty. We recognize the significant value that those technologies and innovations have had but acknowledge that the times are changing. We have a transforming economy. There are different options for energy production and storage, and there are different risks that we face now.
Knowing the challenge we face and how we got here are incredibly important to finding the solutions. Climate change is not explicitly mentioned in the core concept for any mandatory course between grade 8 and 10 curriculum in our province. We need to do better in preparing the next generation. They face the most severe effects of climate change. Developing the leaders who will guide us through the impacts of climate change will require an all-of-government approach.
To the Minister of Education, what are the greatest climate change risks and opportunities facing your ministry, and how are you prepared to deal with both?
Hon. R. Fleming:
Thank you very much to the member for the question. Like the members of the Third Party, we know that the greatest challenge of our time is climate change. We’re committed to tackling that as a government.
The school system now gives kids tools to explore climate challenges that our world is facing and are taking action to do their part. Climate change wasn’t part of the curriculum until recently. That has now changed. In the new curriculum, learning in all areas is rooted in the core competencies, a number of which place a key emphasis on social and environmental responsibilities.
So where climate change is a distinct part of B.C.’s new curriculum…. I’ll give the member just a couple of examples. In grade 9, all students learn a systems approach to sustainability that touches upon climate change and the role of carbon pollution as a key factor in climate change. It teaches kids what the greenhouse effect is, among other goals in that year. In earth science 11, students examine climate change on water sources.
But really, climate change and sustainability are embedded throughout the education system from the earliest ages. It’s not just the science curriculum. I want the member to know that. Social studies students look at the role that climate change can cause in destabilizing countries, creating the migrant crisis and all of those sorts of things.
I do want the member to know, as well, as a government statement of responsibility, we’re also using our significant capital program to build new buildings to the highest environmental standards. We are funding geothermal…
Thank you, Minister.
Hon. R. Fleming:
…and renewable energy projects in schools right across British Columbia. We take this challenge seriously, and we’re leading with our actions.