COLUMN: Climate change hits home

The environmental accord reached by global governments in Paris will have a significant effect on the South Fraser region.

Canada is among the 195 countries signing on to a worldwide plan to reduce carbon emissions – an attempt to keep global temperatures from rising.

The accord, reached in Paris after two weeks of intensive talks, calls for significant reductions in emissions from coal, natural gas and oil. It also calls for preservation and replanting of forests, transparency and regular five-year reviews of how countries are progressing, and an unspecified but significant subsidy from richer countries to poorer ones.

The new federal Liberal government wants to move forward and have an implementation plan in place, together with the provinces, in 90 days.

This accord will have a significant effect on the South Fraser region. Here are some likely consequences.

The planned coal port at Fraser Surrey Docks will not be built, and there will be no trains hauling thermal coal along the BNSF tracks in White Rock, Surrey and Delta within the next few years. China says it wants to reduce its use of thermal coal and the reductions will start with export projects that aren’t past the planning stage.

The number of trains hauling coal to Roberts Bank will also gradually diminish. Eventually, no thermal coal will be hauled there. It is also likely there will be reductions in the amounts of metallurgical coal shipped there – the main type of coal exported from the Delta port.

However, there will likely be a significant increase in train traffic on all rail lines in the area. Trains use far less fuel per tonne hauled and are the greenest of all transportation options. New  commuter rail services may be offered on the present BNSF, CN and Southern Railway of B.C. lines.

Thus it would be a mistake to re-route the BNSF tracks off the waterfront near Crescent Beach and White Rock. There will be a need for passenger pick-up locations in White Rock and Crescent Beach. The SRY line (the former interurban route) cuts straight across Surrey and there could be a need for stations in Cloverdale, Sullivan, Newton, Kennedy and South Westminster. Tracks and signal systems will also require major upgrades.

Given all the above, there will definitely need to be a rail overpass over the tracks at Crescent Road, and quite possibly at some locations along SRY.

In addition to new commuter rail services, there will need to be more transit in all areas of the South Fraser. That includes additional bus routes running over the Port Mann Bridge. Surrey will have to continue its push for more rapid transit, but for that to happen, TransLink must either be disbanded or changed significantly. There is no way Surrey and TransLink can together come up with one-third of the cost of the two planned rapid transit lines – the line along 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard, and the line along Fraser Highway to Langley City.

Surrey will also have to change its ways in regards to tree cutting. The emphasis on preservation of forests in the accord does not just apply to places like Brazil – it also applies to places such as Green Timbers, where thousands of trees will fall under the current rapid transit construction plan, and to Campbell Heights, where expansion of industry will also lead to significant tree losses. The city must also change the way it manages trees on private lands set for development.

All new housing will likely be built to new standards requiring much less use of energy for both heating and cooling. Densities will need to increase in all areas near bus, rail and rapid transit lines.

If Surrey, Delta, White Rock, B.C. and Canada are truly committed to making these changes, the sooner they start working on them, the better.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.


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