Ottawa

Ottawa declares climate emergency

Ottawa city council has declared climate change an emergency, joining other Canadian municipalities in making the declaration.

City to spend $250K to speed up studies on renewable energy, emissions

Protesters rallied outside Ottawa City Hall on Apr. 24, 2019, urging city council to declare climate change an emergency. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Ottawa city council has declared climate change an emergency, joining other Canadian municipalities in making the declaration.

Council members who voted for the declaration, including the mayor, say it's no empty gesture. Wednesday's vote dedicates $250,000 from the city's annual Hydro Ottawa dividend to speed up studies aimed at moving the city to renewable energy and meeting greenhouse gas emission targets.

It's the young people who are inheriting the problems that we're all responsible for creating.- Coun . Jenna Sudds

Coun. Shawn Menard, who tabled the motion and won support for it at committee last week, said he's received petitions from schools and has even had children come to his door to air their concerns.

"It's the young people in the city who are actually leading this effort," Menard said Wednesday.

Coun. Shawn Menard told the rally that municipalities have control over half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, and can no longer rely on upper levels of government to fight climate change on their behalf. (Kate Porter/CBC)

That resonated with many other councillors including Kanata North's Jenna Sudds.

"I think it's important that we give thought to that because it's the young people who are inheriting the problems that we're all responsible for creating," Sudds said.

'There is a connection'

Mayor Jim Wason pointed to the flooding currently threatening the region, the devastating floods of 2017 and the tornadoes that struck Ottawa and Gatineau last fall.

"There is a connection, and I think when you look at almost every scientific journal and every report that's come out on climate change, these are not coincidences. They're actually serious challenges to the planet's well-being."

We're going to have to spend more.- Mayor Jim Watson

That said, the city has not stood "idly by" on climate change, the mayor said, pointing to a nine-page list of recent municipal efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions including the electric light rail Confederation Line.

Asked whether the city would commit to be even more aggressive strategy, Watson said that's a discussion for another day.

"We're going to have to spend more. How much that is going to be will be determined at budget time, and it has to compete with every other interest," he said.

Coun. Rick Chiarelli disagreed with declaring an "emergency" for climate change, while Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Glen Gower supported the declaration. 1:08

Chiarelli, Darouze, Hubley vote no

Three councillors refused to call climate change an emergency and voted against the declaration.

"I think by applying the word emergency, we open the floodgates," said Coun. Rick Chiarelli, who noted the city's fight against gang violence and homelessness may deserve similar declarations.

Councillors George Darouze and Allan Hubley voted against the declaration, while Coun. Jan Harder objected to a plan to create a sponsors' group of councillors to tackle the issue.

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