Clouds of Change Report online – with thoughts from a venture capitalist
Now posted on the SFU City Program Resources and Historical Documents site: Clouds of Change, Volumes 1 and 2.
As the years go by, this document – likely the first attempt by a municipality in North America to address climate change – takes on added signficance. So the SFU City Program is making it more easily accessible – here.
[Disclosure: I was the Council liaison (and mover of the originating motion) to the Task Force.]
Also, this a good time to publish a recollection of the Task Force by Mike Brown, one of the members:
The Clouds of Change report of the City of Vancouver Task Force on Climate Change was published in 1990.
I have participated in writing many reports over the years, but this was the best thing I ever did.
Not quite true: the best thing I did was teaming up with Bill Rees ( I don’t think he and I could ever decide whether this idea was his or mine, and it doesn’t matter) to promote the concept of a Task Force to City Council in the spring of 1989. They gave us $40,000. Momentous. We were quite staggered (you can ask him!)
The people who made up the Task Force were passionate and cared about a subject that seemed current at the time but turns out to have been way ahead of public attention. Migawd – the report even looks current today!
We argued a lot; there were doctrinaire leftists and rightists but we all had a common goal: to see if a city like Vancouver could change and make a difference.
But in fact, we made very little difference. Our predictions as to the levels of CO2 and impacts were derided as being wildly imaginative; we turned out to be conservative.
Virtually every one of the 35 recommendations got glowing acceptance comments from the powers that be, but little was implemented.
I wondered then, as I do now, whether politicians know they can endorse radical change in the secure knowledge that, acting subtly, they can derail anything likely to cause themselves heartburn in the voting booth.
There was a 36th recommendation that I promoted hard, but the doctrinaires defeated me.
This was the idea of a progressively higher gas tax in the Lower Mainland, eventually to reach 50 cents+ per litre (remember this was 1990 when 50 cents was a big deal – I think gas was in the 80 cents/litre range).
The proceeds would go to increasingly higher rebates on ICBC insurance rates which would be the same dollar amount for any car – up to $700/ year, if I recall. This would be accompanied by changes to the rules about insurability of people who would operate their cars as amateur car pools, in essence creating an early version of what is now commonplace ad hoc bus routes such as operate in San Francisco and other cities.
There would be a surplus, of course, because even then the bus systems (read: Translink) needed huge amounts of capital. I spent a lot of personal time doing research of the most basic variety, including the elasticity of demand for gasoline over time. I’ve often wondered whether some version of this would be viable today to solve the seemingly intractable and ongoing financial crisis for Translink.
But this never saw the light of day, although I’d like to think that Gordon Campbell, then the Mayor, kept it in mind when he conceived and introduced the carbon tax. I’d like to think so, if only because maybe the effort wasn’t wasted!
And today, the threat of climate change has been altered from being some sort of risky proposition, to be fairly risk free. Or at least uncertainty-free.
I’ve stayed engaged with the topic. My business as a venture capital person is based on finding technology answers, and I have done more basic research (especially of the awful consequences of the permafrost feedback loops); it’s now unstoppable even as commentators like the president of the World Bank wring their hands in frustration.
All that sort of prediction does is demonstrate how useless are the ministrations of the elite to “do something”. They don’t know what to do, and for sure, international agreements are impossible. The “ 2 degrees movement” is just nonsense and always has been. Pure political hokey-pokey.
So, from here on, it’s a rush to avoid the avalanche.
[Here's a previous PT reference and comment from Task Force member Donna Passmore.]