Ottawa committee will debate climate change emergency on April 16

Ottawa's environment committee will be debating on April 16th whether Ottawa should declare a climate emergency. 

Councillor Shawn Menard confirmed to 580 CFRA that he will introduce a motion calling for a formal climate emergency declaration that will be debated and voted on at the environment committee's next meeting. 

The motion, if adopted first by the committee and then by city council, would force city council to adopt a series of recomendations on how to prevent and mitigate climate change.

Menard said he hopes the motion will be supported by environment committee members. 

These are the key points: 

  • Declare a climate emergency in order to name, frame and deepen the city of Ottawa's commitment to protecting the economy, ecosystems and communtiy from climate change
  • Recognize climate change as a strategic priority in the city's strategic plan and budget directions for the remaining council term
  • Establish a council sponsors group that would include the chairs of the following committees: enviromental protection, water and waste management, planning commitee, transportation committee, transit commission, and the councilor liaison of environment stewardship advisory committee. 
  • Accord the city's greenhouse gas emissions targets to match the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change report, that says global leaders have to slash 2010 greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent before 2030. Otherwise, the world will see more serious climate disasters. 
  • Implement the Energy Evolution Final Report with a lens of inclusion and taking into account the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations. 
  • Complete a vulnerability assessment and create a Climate Resiliency Strategy. 
  • Direct funding from the Hydro Ottawa Dividends Surplus to reduce emissions
  • Work with senior levels of government on mitigating and preventing climate change disasters 

A climate rally organized in part by Ecology Ottawa is expected to take place before the environment committee meeting on April 16. 

Robb Barnes, president of Ecology Ottawa, said the rally is supposed to encourage city councillors to support Menard's motion. 

"We are trying to get city council fired up about this," Barnes said. " We can make a better city by responding to the climate crisis."

If the vote is passed by the environment committee, it will come before council on April 24 at their next meeting. 

Barnes said his organization is expecting a bit of a battle at city council over the motion, but has heard support for climate action "from every corner of the city." 

If Ottawa declares a climate emergency, it would be joining over 400 cities and local governments worldwide. Vancouver was the first Canadian city to acknowledge a climate emergency in January, followed soon after by Halifax, Montreal and over 300 municipalities in Quebec. 

In March, Kingston became the first Ontario city to declare a climate emergency. 

With files from Hannah Berge