Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay city council declares climate emergency

The City of Thunder Bay has officially declared a climate emergency.

'Leadership is what this is all about,' Mayor Bill Mauro told council

Aynsley Klassen and Courtney Strutt of EarthCare's Climate Adaptation Working Group spoke to council before the vote. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

The City of Thunder Bay has officially declared a climate emergency.

City council on Monday night voted unanimously to make the formal declaration. 

The vote followed a request from the city's EarthCare Advisory Committee, which argued the declaration would underscore the urgency of addressing climate change. 

"We have no choice in my mind but to do this," Mayor Bill Mauro told council before the vote. "Leadership is what this is all about. It's not about whether other jurisdictions are still building coal plants. The imperative is that we need to take action, and we need to show that we are part of this and we believe in this." 

Two members of EarthCare's Climate Adaptation Working Group, Aynsley Klassen and Courtney Strutt, spoke to council before the vote.

Asked by Coun. Rebecca Johnson what tangible impact the symbolic declaration would have, Klassen said it would lead to "a stronger climate action lens [coming] through all of council's decisions moving forward from here."

Klassen cited as an example the possibility that the declaration could provide support for Thunder Bay Transit to purchase costlier electric busses instead of diesel fuelled vehicles.  

Four hundred and seventy-two councils in Canada had already declared regional or municipal climate emergencies as of November 2019, according to a memo from Coun. Andrew Foulds, who chairs the EarthCare Advisory Committee.

People in the city are already feeling the impacts of climate change in the form of more storms, higher winds, more floods, and increases in vector-borne diseases, Foulds wrote.

The City of Thunder Bay has been promoting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions since 2007 through its EarthCare Sustainability Plan, he added.  So far, he said, it has reduced emissions by 25 per cent and saved more than $13.5 million in electrical and natural gas costs from the baseline year of 2009.

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