West Vancouver Council interested in pursuing climate change warning labels on gas pumps

“My name is Emily Kelsall and I am a teenager who is scared for my future.”

May 6, 2014 – West Vancouver

Last night, Emily Kelsall, a 16-year-old resident of West Vancouver gave a presentation to her councillors at West Vancouver’s Municipal Hall about Our Horizon’s proposal to put climate change warning labels on gas pump nozzles. Emily invoked Nelson Mandela’s words in saying, “Your playing it small does not serve the world” and asked her council “to do something bold” in response to the threat of climate change.

“The municipal government of west Vancouver has already taken measures to show leadership towards the future of our climate, these initiatives make me proud to say that I live here,” said Emily. She asked council “to pass a by-law stating that each gas pump must be labelled with one of these stickers that you see before you.”

Emily observed that “we are addicted to fossil fuels as a smoker might be addicted to cigarettes.” With the warning labels already on tobacco packaging all over the world, this idea has been primed to go global. Emily sees the idea taking root in her community and inspiring others to follow.

“Maybe our high school textbooks will look back on this and point to a small community that made an impact big enough to ripple and make changes to the course of history.”

While debate around climate change in Canada often revolves around the oil sands and pipelines, Emily stressed the demand-side of the equation in saying “it is the simplest act of pumping gas that drives the need for tar sands and pipelines.” By drawing attention to this disconnect, the labels have the potential to stimulate demand for alternatives and drive change upstream to help us address climate change in a meaningful way.

Emily’s presentation was followed by questions and remarks from several councillors.

West Vancouver Council

Councillor Panz said that Emily is “an inspiration” and thanked her for her presentation. Panz noted that 44% of greenhouse gas emissions from West Vancouver comes from on-road transportation and that the issue has been a challenging one to address. She said that Emily “hit the nail on the head” with her proposal and added that council “struggled with what we would do [with emissions from vehicles] and this is an interesting opportunity that’s in front of us.” Councillor Panz liked Emily’s proposal and requested that it be embedded in West Vancouver’s Community Energy Plan.

West Vancouver - Panz

Councillor Panz: Emily’s proposal “hit the nail on the head.”

Councillor Soprovich observed that “out of the minds of youth come great things” and added that the proposal is “a very sensible idea.” He said that the by-law is “going to make a change in the future so it’s a wonderful idea” and added that “I hope that we can be the first or second in Canada to do it.”

Councillor Soprovich: "I hope that we can be the first or second in Canada to do it."

Councillor Soprovich: “I hope that we can be the first or second in Canada to do it.”

Councillor Gambioli similarly thought Emily’s proposal was “a great idea” and pointed to the leadership of Hudson, Quebec on cosmetic pesticides as an example. That community – in the face of threats of litigation from the chemical industry – voted to pass a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides that became the first of its kind in North America. The vast majority of Canadians now have a law in place that can be traced back to the decision of a handful of councillors from this small community. While voicing concerns about the potential impact to the municipality’s litigation budget, Gambioli concluded her remarks by observing that “It does take leadership from one community to get it going” and referenced West Vancouver’s vision to “lead by example.”

Councillor Gambioli: "It does take leadership from one community to get it going.”

Councillor Gambioli: “It does take leadership from one community to get it going.”

Councillor Cameron asked that staff bring forward a model by-law and a report on the implications of the proposal adding, “Rather than just bring it forward for discussion, bring it forward for decision.”

Deputy CAO Brent Leigh informed councillors that West Vancouver’s Community Energy Plan is coming to council in June and advised that Emily’s work could be embraced within the plan as a possible means of rolling it forward.

If passed into law, these labels would be the first of their kind in the world.

You can watch a video of Emily’s presentation here. For more information, please watch Our Horizon’s TEDx talk on the psychology and economic theory behind their campaign.

Media requests:

To arrange an interview with Emily Kelsall in West Vancouver or Rob Shirkey, Executive Director of Our Horizon, please send an email to communications@ourhorizon.org.

Back to Top