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Council debates declaring a climate emergency

While the exact wording is yet to be ironed out, Prince Edward County may become the latest Canadian municipality to declare a climate emergency, or wording that states urgency.

Councillors showed support for a motion brought to Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting by councillor Kate McNaughton – though debated changes to the wording of climate “emergency” to “urgency” and took out references to outside organizations. Climate emergency motions have been passed in about 30 communities across the nation – including Kingston, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Vancouver.

McNaughton noted she and her young daughter have been moved by Greta Thunberg, who at age 15, began protesting about the need for immediate action to combat climate change outside the Swedish parliament and has since become an outspoken activist.

The councillor said one of her favourite quotes from a speech by Thunberg was “I want to to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

“Generations like us have not done our job to protect the planet. The time is now,” said McNaughton. “This is the perfect time to start and support the other municipalities… set a great example and a way forward to look at our own usage of fossil fuels; our fleet, how we provide services. There is opportunity here, options to set us on the road to taking responsibility for our actions.”

Several citizens also presented impassioned pleas to take action on climate change – one noting he’s trading in his tractor for oxen, another admitting she is choosing not to bring children into an unsettling world.

Councillor Bill Roberts asked council to be honest about the “house is on fire” and several comments from presenters, noting the word ’emergency’ invokes ‘doing whatever it takes’.

“I’m pretty sure council and next councils won’t urge farmers to adopt oxen, close the cement plant, or go back and revisit wind turbines or shut down tourism,” he said, asking councillors to be cognizant of wording that will brings the County’s citizens together as opposed to pushing apart with divisive language.

A few other councillors agreed and questioned the competency of council to do much at the municipal level. They were also concerned the word ’emergency’ could be confused with state of emergency issues reserved for danger of major proportions.

Councillor Janice Maynard was among several who applauded McNaughton’s motion.

“It’s a statement of support to move this forward in however small a way. I think this issue is as strong as it can be and no we’re not going to change the world overnight but little bit, by little bit; drop by drop we can make a difference,” said Maynard. “And to councillor Roberts, I wouldn’t be so sure this council isn’t going to intertwine in everything that we do in all of our policy objectives and priority setting issues surrounding climate change. No we’re not going to close down the cement plant; but there’s technologies out that that we could have a much cleaner cement plant. We could encourage farmers to use techniques to lessen the carbon footprint. A we can certainly find ways to reduce the impacts of tourism.”

McNaughton said councillors “can choose to do nothing… but we can’t afford to do nothing. We can do this little bit and take baby steps,” she said, calling on the cliche ‘every journey begins with a single step.’ This is a very small step, creating a pathway for Mayor Ferguson to get his environmental committee going again, that will have a mandate to bring issues to us to say this is what we recommend. We can fine tune as we go. It’s an opportunity.”

McNaughton remarked on inaction from higher levels of government across the nation and wants to join other municipalities to drive action from the bottom up.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to read the research that’s out there. It’s compelling. We need to do something.”

The motion declares the County is experiencing the early effects of climate change – increasing weather volatility, wind storms, increasingly frequent polar vortices and ice storms; hotter, longer droughts, unpredictable thaws and extraordinary flooding events and predictable long-term effects of hotter climate and intermittent, sustained droughts and flooding like desertification, soil erosion and greater risk of grass and forest fires.

The issue comes before council at its regular meeting May 28. It is expected McNaughton will push for her strong wording of ‘climate emergency’ over ‘climate urgency’.

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  1. Fred says:

    You adjust. Climate changes and always has. Build on high ground, avoid waterfronts, respect flood plains. The old timers would tell you that you are mistakken to build on shorelines. Water levels rise and they fall. This is not new learnings.

  2. JS says:

    So what exactly is the plan going forward. What do we need to do if Prince Edward County is declared a climate emergency. So far I hear a lot about the what the climate change is responsible for but I am still confused about what actions we need to begin taking to move from a Climate Emergency to a Climate Fixed for all time.

  3. ADJ says:

    To Vincent..I completely understand where you are coming from and agree completely. However you know as well as I that we as Canada have no control over the environmental guide used (or not) by China, Korea, parts of South America. Our overall industry base is running on oil and the by products of. It’s too late to change that. You say every bit helps but I say as much as we do our part the larger % of the global population does not.
    Question: I’m not confident that a 30-40K electric car can hold it’s own on the 401 in a -30 blizzard with a pileup of wrecks ahead that will be hours to clear. With all the features needed to sit and wait and or move ahead slowly how long will my power source last? Can I run a heater/defrost, signals/four ways? Anyways I’m convinced this warming of the planet would have happened regardless of carbon emissions. I think science knows that and are just looking for someone to blame which in turn gives the government an excuse to insert gently a Carbon Tax on individuals who really are not the culprits. Big companies YES but wait they employ these individuals and they also pay a “gratuity” come the election campaign.
    So to close..please lay your blame where it belongs and harass the countries at fault.

  4. Vincent de Tourdonnet says:

    It is so sad to see people talk about climate and ice ages etc. with no acknowledgment of the OVERWHELMING scientific consensus about what humanity is currently causing by emitting so much carbon. That consensus has been clear for decades, and now we are seeing things unfold as was predicted, because of us refusing to change our ways.

    People talk as though facts about carbon-caused climate change were matters of opinion.

    I get it that some people don’t trust science. But given what’s at stake, it breaks my heart.

  5. Michelle says:

    Perhaps the Picton Councilor would like to shutdown County tourism. The auto gasses, plastics in our landfils, tons of garbage, over whelmed septics and infrastructure water systems. Look locally what can be done prior to taking on a perceived global crisis,

  6. Mark says:

    Climate change has taken place for millions of years. We do not control weather.

  7. ADJ says:

    A couple of questions…do you suppose “Mother Nature” is calling the shots here without any help from man or beast? Much like the theory talked about called the ICE AGE! Then there was that story of a little flood where some dude loaded animals 2 x 2 into a big old boat he had built and floated around for was it 40 days and 40 nights. Now there certainly wasn’t the industry then spewing out your toxins and heating up the earth as blamed for this go around..no burning of natural resources or the by- products of or mass burning of jungle/forests to clear land. Well, ok a bit of a campfire and oil lamps using olive oil or blubber! For one thing they didn’t have the machinery/technology to look after more acreage so why bother.
    So to say this is all mans fault is a stretch. Definitely we have added to the problem but this world is how many millions of years old and the expiry date is rolling up. I’m all for the effort to keep our planet clean and healthy but I don’t think it will help the inevitable. Look for the past due date.

    On a different topic I would like to see on County Live a followup from Council as to why councillors voted or decided their decision on an issue being discussed. Recently we have seen two Flip-Flops by Council…what changed the councillors mind when they had already voiced their preference earlier. This plants seeds of distrust and doubt and rumors start to fly. I recall other councils playing these games and the voters remembered this as the next election cames up.
    One last thing,,what became of the proposed investigation into the possibility of faulty water meters in 2-3 residents in Picton? The owners had attended Council with their story and were told it would be investigated. So what were the results? Another reason to ask Council to come clean. Add it to County Live as Council Reports.

  8. Susan says:

    Climate is cyclical and has been for the ages.The sun has reached the halfway point of it,s life and as it continues to change with release of energy so to will the planet Earths climate.

  9. Marianne Gallagher says:

    Thank you Kate. I believe this is an emergency. The Councillors who believe there is little than can be done at the municipal level need to realize that effective change starts at the bottom.
    What about getting some of those trees that the Ford government is stopping from being planted? Why don’t we get some of those and get some volunteers out planting? A very effective way to combat climate change.
    If you think this kind of measure is too costly, wait til we have to cope with the bigger effects of climate change that are coming–then we’ll know real cost.

  10. Vincent de Tourdonnet says:

    Thank you, Councillor McNaughton. All clear, scientific evidence points to the fact that we have reached an point of global emergency, which means we must act locally as best we can.

    The scientific evidence was there over 30 years ago. If we had acted then, perhaps “emergency” might have been averted. We did not. The era of catatrophic climate change has begun. It is an emergency situation.

  11. Gary says:

    Really? Isn’t emergency a little extreme. As for trading a tractor for an Oxen, I would question the amount of methane released by the oxen in comparison to carbon by the tractor.

  12. Chuck says:

    A concern yes, declaring an emergency is rushed and aimed to alarm further than presently required.

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