Four resource and planning professional organizations in British Columbia recently achieved what’s said to be a world first: Publicly issuing a joint statement on professional leadership in climate change.
Representing 9,000 foresters, biologists and planners, members of the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP), Association of Professional Biology (APB), College of Applied Biology (CAB) and Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) play key roles in decision-making processes regarding “our ecosystems and the evolution of our communities’ knowledge about current climate science, and incorporate it into their recommendations to government and industry,” Andrew Gage, staff lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law, which helped draft the joint statement, explains in a July 8 blog post.
In their joint statement on climate change, the four professional associations commit to “taking steps to enable and encourage their members to ‘incorporate the best available climate science into their professional decisions,’” including planning for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. They also issue a request for support across all levels of government in working together to demonstrate “strong action and leadership on climate change.”
An unprecedented joint statement
Long-range resource monitoring, analysis and planning are core aspects of forestry professionals’ jobs. As a result, BC’s foresters are well aware of the impacts climate change has been having on the Canadian Pacific coast province’s ecosystems and natural resources, ABCFP CEO Sharon Glover stated in a news release.
“Forest professionals are used to planning many years out, so we have been seeing the effects of climate change for a while now. Formally acknowledging that the ecosystem is being affected by climate change is an important first step towards taking adaptive actions. We look forward to working with the other professions to ensure climate change is addressed.”
Added CAB Executive Director Pierre Iachetti: “The College of Applied Biology has developed practice guidance on incorporating principles of stewardship which calls for our members to take a comprehensive, holistic view, maintain resilient ecosystems, assess alternatives and maintain future options in all of their work.
“The joint statement on climate change complements our principles of stewardship and fits with our mandate of upholding and protecting the public interest by preserving and protecting the scientific methods and principles that are the foundation of the applied biological sciences.”
Speaking for BC’s professional planners, PIBC President Andrew Young stated, “Professional Planners in BC recognize that climate change is real and are concerned about its probable negative impacts on communities, economic well-being, and of course the environment.
“Unified action is needed now to help reduce the vulnerability of current and future generations to climate change induced impacts. BC’s Registered Professional Planners look forward to collaborating with other professionals to help address the challenges created by climate change.”
The joint statement is the first time professional associations have banded together to pool resources and collaborate on embedding climate change as a core issue in their strategic and operational frameworks, according to West Coast Environmental Law. The joint statement, the center adds, is “in our view, stronger than any one the associations had previously released.”
It also goes further than previous statements on climate change made by any professional association in that all four acknowledge the responsibilities of resource and planning professionals with regard to both climate change mitigation and adaptation, Gage points out. “Importantly, the statement confirms the responsibility of the associations’ members to incorporate climate change into their decision-making,” he adds.
Crucial roles to play
As the four BC professional resource and planning associations state in the preamble to their joint statement:
“Our members have crucial roles to play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation; their knowledge, expertise and professionalism are key parts of the solution. But they also have important professional and ethical responsibilities related to the changing climate. Professional associations have an obligation to define those responsibilities and to provide the training and structures that will allow members to meet their responsibilities to their clients and to the public.”
In calling for support across all levels of government, the resource and planning associations request the necessary resources be made available to effectively address climate change. These include government leadership in planning, as well as assuring that resources for climate data acquisition are available, and reviewing provincial laws from a climate-change perspective.
Highlights of the pledges the four professional associations make in the joint statement include:
- Expecting their members to incorporate climate science into their decisions;
- Evaluating whether key professional decisions included “appropriate consideration of climatic changes;”
- Commitments to collaborate in providing climate-related training for their members and to work with government and other agencies to provide their members with appropriate scientific information; and
- Continued collaboration going forward.
Image credit: The Enchanted Forest BC