Group wants to see warning labels on North Coast fuel pumps

What's the link between graphic cigarette warning labels and gas stations?

Our Horizon is hoping to put warning labels on fuel pumps.

What’s the link between graphic cigarette warning labels and gas stations?

The Canadian not-for-profit group, Our Horizon, is exploring just that with their new initiative of placing climate change and air pollution info labels on gas pumps.

Matt Hulse, B.C. campaign director for Our Horizon, presented the organization’s pitch to the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District (SQCRD) at its regular meeting last Friday night and asked the region for two things – an endorsement for a resolution presented at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference from Sept. 21 – 25 in Vancouver, and to encourage the district to use the warning labels in their own jurisdictions.

“Our Horizon … is seeking municipalities across the country to put warning labels on gas pumps as a condition of the business licence that a gas station requires to operate in a certain municipality. The labels use images and text to depict locally relevant climate impacts,” said Hulse.

The campaign director distributed four different examples to board members, with each label showing a picture of wildlife or habitats, and, for example, with a dual-before and after picture depicting underwater sea life and that same area after it has been polluted, accompanying text reading: “Use of this fuel product contributes to ocean acidification which puts much marine life at risk of extinction”.

The idea stemmed from the cigarette warning labels that are found on packs across the country.

In order to implement the labels on gas pumps, each pump would require a plastic nozzle topper for the label to be placed upon, a clear coat overtop of the nozzle and the label itself – all adding up to approximately $13.

The retailer could incur the costs as a condition of its business licence, the municipalities could pay for the labels or various environmental groups who support the idea could incur the cost, Hulse said.

“Two degrees Celsius is the number of degrees that our politicians have agreed that we can allow our global average temperature to rise. 565 gigatons is the amount of carbon it would take to raise the temperature an additional two degrees Celsius,” explained Hulse.

“2795 gigatons is the amount of carbon that we have in the ground stored in our proven reserves – oil, gas and coal – as you can see, we need to keep most of it in the ground to avoid blowing through that two degree cap. We have 16 years based on current rates of fossil fuel consumption to burn through 565 gigatons of CO2. That’s basically our window that we have to transition from an oil-based economy to something cleaner and greener.”

The campaign director also explained that with a lack of immediate negative feedback to burning fossil fuels, people don’t necessarily see the consequences of their actions right away or in the same area that they’re burning the fuel. But when faced with immediate feedback, such as the labels, people can associate their actions with the proper consequences and make appropriate behavioural changes.

As well, while individual contributions to the world’s carbon emissions may be small, having a label on a gas pump places more responsibility on the individual, through which it’s shown action is more likely to be taken, instead of residents as a collective.

Members of the board told Hulse with the majority of pumps on Haida Gwaii and some in Prince Rupert being full-service, drivers rarely see the nozzle of the pump that their car is using. Hulse informed them the labels can go on the pump dispenser box itself.

Our Horizon creates personalized labels, depicting familiar locales for each jurisdiction and relevant messages for the area, for example a lack of snow on area ski-hills or flooding in a well-known street.

North Vancouver was the first Canadian jurisdiction to implement the bylaws requiring the labels and will have them in place on gas pumps by the fall.

“We’re looking for a second municipality to do this,” said Hulse.

For more information, visit www.ourhorizon.org.

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