Hamilton

Here's the blueprint for how Hamilton should tackle its climate change emergency

After the city declared a climate emergency in March, a task force set out to define goals and actions for the city to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Its report goes before the general issues committee on Wednesday.

Nine goals focus on infrastructure, transportation, the environment, and city planning

A city of Hamilton task force presents its goals and actions to the general issues committee on Wednesday on how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. (David Ridgen)

A new city report says that a shift to greener transportation along with more environmentally-friendly buildings and more carbon "sinks" are needed for Hamilton to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Hamilton declared a climate emergency in March and this is the first blueprint of how it proposes to take action at a local level. The climate change report was requested in June. 

Since then, the city says approximately 800 cities have declared climate change emergencies worldwide.

Hamilton has been battered in recent years as climate change continues to damage infrastructure via extreme storm events. Both extreme heat leading to drought and increased precipitation leading to flooding, along with higher lake levels, are impacting Hamilton's shoreline and escarpment through erosion. 

In its pitch, the report references recent data estimating that an annual investment of $5.3 billion is needed across Canada for municipalities to adapt to climate change.

The report, goes before the city's general issues committee on Wednesday. 

It offers nine climate change goals, which focus on infrastructure, transportation, the environment, and the way the city does business. Each goal comes with different actions and focus areas to tackle. There are no deadlines and prices, but reporting for each goal is recommended to start in 2020. 

The task force, which included city staff across several departments, worked with the Hamilton Conservation Authority and CityHousing Hamilton to compile a list of goals and actions. 

Here's what they say the city should do to address climate change. 

Infrastructure

The report recommends increasing the amount of energy efficient buildings that can adapt to a changing climate. It says the city should look at material reuse and recycling when it comes to demolitions, best practices for green building, financial incentive and award programs, and fee rebates.

It also asks that the city update its emissions target and corporate energy policy to ensure city-owned buildings are built to better standards, and retrofit existing ones. 

To improve the city's resiliency to extreme weather and minimize future damages, the report asks for a city-wide climate vulnerability and risk assessment to be completed. 

Hamilton has experienced flooding and costly damage to infrastructure in the past few years due to high water levels coming out of extreme storms. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Natural environment 

The report calls for an increase in carbon sinks and local food production by preserving and enhancing the natural environment, including farmland. 

Among other focus areas, it asks for more focus on developing guidelines for tree planting on both public and private land and updating greener standards for city-owned parking facilities.

Transportation

Two goals are dedicated to transportation, including looking at strategies to increase trips taken by "active and sustainable transportation" versus single use occupancy vehicles — which is 67 per cent of all trips in Hamilton — and moving up plans for low and zero emission transportation. 

The task force points to promotion of existing programs to alleviate pressure, like Smart Commute, and mileage reimbursement policies. It also raises the option of having city services like parking enforcement act on foot or by bicycle.

The task force wants the city to look at ways to cut down single use occupancy vehicles and move to greener transportation. The amount of greenhouse gases related to transportation has also gone up in the past years.   (J.P. Moczulski/The Canadian Press)

The city would accelerate several master plans, including one for cycling that addresses a bike share and bike parking. The others look at street design, a car share, and parking pricing. It would also look at expanding electric vehicle infrastructure and changing city-owned vehicles to low or zero emission options. 

City processes 

Other goals specific to administration include planning with a climate change lens, increasing knowledge through training, advocating to higher levels of government, and working with sustainable and ethical vendors.

It also wants to ensure that its work promotes "equity, diversity, health and inclusion" and "improves collaboration and consultation with marginalized groups, including local Indigenous peoples." 

Greenhouse gas emissions

Hamilton's greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 2006 by a third, with its 2017 estimate at 11,569,045 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It needs to further reduce by 3 million tonnes to reach a 50 per cent drop. The city wants to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2050. 

The  industrial and steel industries are the city's major greenhouse gas sources, but both have reduced their emissions by 33.5 per cent and 47.8 per cent since 2006. Commercial and transportation, however, have increased. 

The report says that by working on these goals and actions, the city can also work toward other goals, like improving air quality. 

It also recommends that the city contribute $160,000 toward the Bay Area Climate Change office in the remaining three years of this council's term as part of the 2020 operating budget. While the city currently provides an in-kind contribution representing "one full time employment", it is not annualized.

The money would provide the office — which grew out of a partnership between Hamilton, Burlington and the centre for climate change management at Mohawk College in 2017  — with two full time staff and operational funding to engage people and reduce barriers to greenhouse gas emissions. 

The report to the committee calls this the first of "many" corporate-wide, centralized climate change reports.

It says council may remove or add goals and areas of focus, but warns against doing so due to the "extensive" consultation and overall consensus reached. 

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