The United Nations has made it clear – we now have 11 years to avoid catastrophic impacts to the world’s species and ecosystems. The effects are already being felt in Ottawa: record floods in 2017; tornado impacts in late 2018; summers of extreme and deadly heat; and winters with erratic freeze-thaw cycles. Momentum is building among cities like Vancouver, Halifax, Kingston and Hamilton to urgently respond to this moment of crisis and build a better city, and Ottawa has the opportunity to lead. We are calling on the City of Ottawa to declare climate emergency now.
The City of Ottawa has not yet responded adequately to the scope and scale of the climate crisis. We have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Energy Evolution, but this has been delayed and underfunded. We have set a greenhouse gas emission target, but have not regularly reported on our emissions. We have not produced a long-promised climate resilience plan despite tremendous damage from flooding, tornadoes, heat waves and other extreme weather events.
Climate change is happening, right here in Ottawa. As we have witnessed from record floods in 2017; tornado impacts in late 2018; summers of extreme and deadly heat; and winters with erratic freeze-thaw cycles, each of these events are an emergency, and they will only exacerbate if we fail to act. Ottawa’s average temperature is expected to rise 3.2 C by mid century under a business-as-usual scenario. Along with longer summer, we will also witness more frequent and deadly heatwaves, more regular crop failures, increased flooding, algal blooms on our lakes and rivers and declining forests.
What does a climate emergency declaration mean?
The (draft) motion coming to the Environment Committee in Ottawa is seeking to:
- Officially declare a climate emergency for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems, and our community from climate change;
- Recognize climate change as a strategic priority in the City’s strategic plan and accompanying budget directions for the remaining Term of Council;
- Establish a Council Sponsors Group comprised of the Chairs of the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management, Planning Committee, Transportation Committee, Transit Commission and the Councilor Liaison of Environment Stewardship Advisory Committee;
- Analyze the GHG targets from the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan and how they measure to the IPCC targets to limit warming to 1.5C;
- Implement the actions from the Energy Evolution Final Report with an equity and inclusion lens
- Report back in 90 days how to spend they Hydro Ottawa Dividends Surplus to reduce GHG emissions;
- Complete a vulnerability assessment and Climate Resilience Strategy;
- Work with senior levels of government to accelerate ambition and action to reduce GHG emissions and build resiliency.