For this remote First Nation, installing heat pumps is worth the effort

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A cold breeze smelling of salt and sea life sweeps through the town of Bella Bella, on Campbell Island, off the central coast of British Columbia.

Members of the Heiltsuk Nation have been living on this breathtaking land for at least 9,000 years. But in recent years, the community’s reliance on fossil fuels to heat their homes has had devastating consequences.

In 2016, an oil spill caused by a barge that ran aground dumped more than 110,000 litres of petroleum products into Gales Creek. Sixty per cent of the community’s clam beds and fish stocks were destroyed, jeopardizing the community’s primary livelihood.

In response, the Heiltsuk Nation — which has roughly 2,400 members — began working on a climate action plan to get off fossil fuels.

“Our whole plan is to realign with our ancestral laws, to realign who we are as Heiltsuk people with Earth and with our unique place in the world,” Q̓átuw̓as Brown, the communications manager of the Haíɫzaqv Climate Action Plan, told What On Earth.

The plan, which aims to achieve net-zero emissions within a decade and eventually reduce emissions by 24,000 tonnes a year, recently won Community of the Year from Clean Energy BC. The award recognizes the best and most ambitious sustainable energy strategy of any jurisdiction in British Columbia.

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