Drivers in one Canadian city will soon be getting a dose of climate reality when they go to the gas station.
The city of North Vancouver, British Columbia passed a law this week that mandates climate change warning stickers be applied to gas pumps in the city. The vote makes the city the first in the world to implement such a law. The City Council still has to approve designs for the stickers, but a city staff report recommended including messages such as “Get $5,000 toward a purchase of a new electric car” or “Idling your vehicle for more than 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting your engine” on the stickers.
“The message is that burning fossil fuels causes climate change and … to add a positive spin, here are some tips when using your automobile on how to make it more fuel efficient,” North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto told the CBC.
The effort to get the stickers on gas pumps is being spearheaded by a Toronto-based group called Our Horizon. Rob Shirkey, executive director of the group, told ThinkProgress that the main point of the stickers isn’t to get people to completely stop driving — it’s to change their way of thinking about climate change.
“[The goal] is not to have someone drop the pump and walk away from the vehicle,” he said. “We have a habitual automatic downstream behavior — we don’t think about pumping gas. We all say in Canada, ‘shame on Alberta, shame on tar sands,’ but by pointing finger up-stream, we distance ourselves from the problem. We’re providing most of the demand for that product.”
When people see the stickers, Shirkey said, the hope is that they’ll be able to understand how the problem of climate change is affected by their everyday behaviors.
“It makes us feel more connected to the problem,” he said. “It makes it feel a little more tangible, a little more proximate, and prompts this ‘ok what can I do,’ response.”
Our Horizon has some templates for what the stickers on the gas pumps might look like. Though the designs aren’t finalized, Shirkey said North Vancouver’s stickers will show a link between fossil fuels and climate change and ideally will have a link to a website with more information on what individuals can do to combat climate change.
Shirkey hopes that the decision to implement the stickers in North Vancouver will be the first of many. Already, the legislature of Port Moody, another B.C. city, has voted in favor of the stickers. The city will have to go through a few more steps to get the stickers fully approved, but Shirkey sees the vote as a sign of progress. In addition, he said, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities voted in support of the idea during their conference this year, and cities in Ontario and other provinces have also shown interest in the concept. Our Horizon, which depends heavily on volunteers, is also trying to recruit people to email politicians around the world with information about the initiative.
The idea has been pushed in the U.S. too — by Shirkey and by local activists. The Bay Area chapter of 350.org has proposed stickers on gas pumps, but the idea hasn’t yet gotten off the ground there. But Shirkey is confident the idea is gaining steam.
“I foresee this snowballing,” he said.
North Vancouver’s mayor told the CBC that the city hopes to get the stickers, which will cost $3,000 to $5,000 to produce, implemented in gas stations across the city by early next year.