With flood levels approaching 2017 high Council considers climate change motion

(Gazette file photo)





Whether it requires urgency or is an emergency, it appears county council is moving towards addressing climate change for the first time in municipal history.

While Councillor Kate McNaughton’s original motion ended up being amended in a number of ways including a change to the term ’emergency’ to ‘urgency’, councillors passed a motion at the May 16 Committee of the whole meeting that referenced increasing weather volatility, wind storms, increasingly frequent polar vortices as well as predictable long-term effects of hotter climate and intermittent, sustained droughts and flooding, etc. and that the municipality supports other communities that have elected to  ‘name and frame’ this global crisis by officially declaring a climate urgency and called for an Environmental Advisory Committee be re-established.

The motion will come up for further debate and potential ratification at the May 28 regular Council meeting.

If the motion is passed , the County will be joining the ranks of approximately 30 other communities across Canada, such as Toronto and Kingston, who have similarly declared a climate emergency.

On Thursday there was debate amongst councillors as to the necessity of this motion as well as the wording of it.

Councillor Bill Roberts urged council to be mindful of using language that would help to unite the community, rather than divide, questioning  the degree to which council would be involved in mitigating climate change on a municipal level, citing his doubts they would urge farmers to adopt oxen as opposed to tractors, close the cement plant and stifle the tourism industry if the matter was a full blown emergency.

Apart from members of council, several individuals from the community made deputations regarding their support for the motion proposed by Councillor MacNaughton.

Among those speaking Thursday was Rosalind Adams.

Adams pointed to widespread flooding across eastern Canada this spring and said increased spring flooding is connected with the greater winter snowfall that results from a warmer, wetter atmosphere.

“On top of this, global warming has weakened the jet stream that pushes our weather systems along from west to east. So instead of moving on in a day, rainy weather can hang around for weeks. So can hot dry weather, as it did in Fort McMurray, and here, in 2016,” Adams explained “Extreme flooding may be the new normal for man. Most of the areas in eastern Canada that had once-in-one-hundred-years floods this year also saw them in 2017.”

Adams went on to speak of other climate related disasters around the world, adding  this direction of weather patterns is not the climate crisis being discussed.

“This is the result of only a one degree temperature rise above pre-industrial levels” and noted that climate change will be affecting Canada as much as anywhere else in the world.

“Canada has unparalleled infrastructure and everything needed to make the transition to a low to zero carbon economy. Canada’s responsibility is to lower its carbon emissions to a per capita level of 2.1 tonnes per person or lower by 2030. Since our per capita carbon emissions today are 22 tonnes, that’s going to take a reduction of over 90 per cent, not a 50 per cent,” said Adams.

At the municipal level, this would mean stopping or changing many energy-consuming activities including  commuting to jobs in personal cars, tourism, and the long-distance freight transportation that currently brings all our food to us as well as takes all the food we produce out of Prince Edward County.

Lastly, Adams is clear to point out that she believes fighting climate change on a municipal level is more about addressing a behavioural problem as opposed to a technical one.

Holding back tears, debutant Paige Wentworth also took to the podium to make an impassioned plea to council.

“Every time I think about having children, I not only think about the world we’d be bringing them in to but the impact a child has on the world, not in the way you’re probably thinking, but rather their impact in regards to a carbon footprint…because we all have one. And let me tell you, it’s hefty,” Wentworth said.

Speaking of her inability to reconcile having a child with the current state of the environment, Wentworth said as it stands right now, policy makers are not doing enough to allow her to take some of the burden off of herself as an individual.

“Every single thing I do, matters. Same with each one of us in here. Until we can actually start making major changes on a bigger scale, I, you, we, all as individuals hold so much responsibility because of the inaction or rather the not-good-enough actions of our government officials,” she said. “By declaring a climate emergency, we pivot with hopefulness and positivity towards our survival or we take no action and declare a point of no return.”

If the motion is passed , the County will be joining the ranks of approximately 30 other communities across Canada, such as Toronto and Kingston, who have similarly declared a climate emergency.