Hamilton

Environmentalists frustrated by Hamilton's lagged climate change strategy

It's been roughly a year-and-a-half since Hamilton declared a climate emergency, but an update to its climate plans have local environmentalists feeling frustrated and disappointed by a lack of progress.

Environment Hamilton says city needs to learn how to deal with multiple crises at once

Hamilton's climate change plan is still in the works a year-and-a-half after the city declared a climate emergency. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

It's been roughly a year-and-a-half since Hamilton declared a climate emergency, and while the city sees promise and progress, an update to its climate plans have local environmentalists feeling frustrated and disappointed as they wait for more.

Trevor Imhoff, a senior project manager who leads the city's Air Quality and Climate Change Team, told city council's general issues committee Wednesday that Hamilton still doesn't have a "very robust, detailed, financially forecasted plan."

He also pointed out the city's scientific projections and data collection is behind schedule because members of his team were redeployed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds have previously protested in Hamilton calling for action on climate change. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Environment Hamilton executive director Lynda Lukasik and climate campaign coordinator Ian Borsuk both said the city should have had more done by now, even with the ongoing pandemic.

"The climate crisis and its impacts are not on hold during the pandemic. Precious time has been lost because most of the city's already limited number of climate staff were redeployed," Lukasik said.

"Moving forward you need to figure out how to deal with multiple crises in tandem."

City says progress has been made

While the city works on developing its detailed plan, it continues to progress through a "pathway" which has nine climate change goals. They focus on infrastructure, transportation, the environment, and the way the city does business. Each goal comes with different actions and focus areas to tackle.

Imhoff said he was impressed by how far the city has come in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He highlighted various updates on some of the goals including building more walking paths, bike lanes and progressing its Flamborough Park wetland restoration project.

Hamilton's community-wide greenhouse gas emissions have remained stable with 2018 levels showing 11.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Steel emissions contribute just over 5 million of those 11.8 million tonnes. Corporate emissions continue to decrease.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he hopes Hamilton's local steel industry can do its part to reduce  its net emissions to zero by 2050 or earlier.

"I know that means massive investments for them but it is the area where we're going to get our greatest impact," he said.

Imhoff said the community energy plan should be complete in the middle of 2021 and the corporate energy policy will be updated by the end of the year. He also pointed out the city's scientific projections and data collection is behind schedule because members of his team were "redeployed."

Many of the other climate change action timelines across city departments, most of which have to do with updates to planning and reports, are slated for completion between the end of this year and the end of 2021.

Urban sprawl will work against goals

Borsuk and Lukasik both said while it is good to see more information, but the path to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is still murky.

"While we wait, key processes are continuing to unfold on that front that will have profound climate implications over the long term," Lukasik said.

She explained as the city's urban sprawl continues to expand, emission levels will rise as people opt for vehicles instead of transit, walking or biking.

Hamilton's urban sprawl may work against the city's efforts to stop climate change. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Lukasik recommended the city reviews its Land Needs Assessment Methodology — which sets the city's land budget to accommodate growth to 2051 — to ensure it considers the environmental impact of more development into its calculations. It's due in mid-November.

"The outcome of this process will lock the municipality into a land budget that will set the course for 30 years."

"Figuring out how to assess and address climate impacts in a meaningful, measurable way is not easy but it is an absolutely essential process."

Other locals including Cameron Kroetsch and John Davey, chairperson of the North End Neighbourhood Environment and Change Committee, offered presentations with their own suggestions.

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