Cities’ climate emergency declarations are more than hollow words

Image by: Amelia Rankine

Municipalities’ declarations of climate emergencies aren’t empty gestures. 

They’re a call to affect change at provincial and national levels of government, and they demonstrate solidarity with their communities’ priorities.

A Globe and Mail opinion published last week emphasized the value of municipal climate emergency rhetoric, and the importance of tying the conversation to a city’s social and economic challenges.

This point rings true: cities and towns—like Kingston—have the power to address the climate crisis on an immediate, urgent basis. 

While declarations alone aren’t enough, the statements formalize a city or town’s commitment to leading the fight against the climate emergency. They enable the communities they serve to hold them to their word.

In a time of undue pressure on young people to make a difference, the institutional support provided by declarations is comforting.

The initiative shown by municipal declarations can also force higher levels of government to respond to communities’ desires for their representatives to prioritize green initiatives.

Earlier this year, Kingston’s councillors voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency, making the city the first municipality in Ontario to do so. 

But words aren’t enough if cities and towns don’t pair their declarations with definitive action. 

Since its declaration, Kingston has yet to make significant changes to combat the climate emergency. The city should be calling for federal funding for green technology manufacturing and pushing large-scale investments supporting constituents’ efforts to live greener. Flood-resistant housing, electric vehicle charging stations, better recycling practices: there’s plenty of work to be done on a municipal level. 

These resiliency measures and environmental policies would address an immediate problem. The climate crisis isn’t some symbolic threat—it’s a present-day emergency.

That said, Kingston’s declaration as it stands has bolstered young people in the city as they mobilize against the environmental crisis. 

Last Friday, hundreds of local citizens marched through downtown Kingston to honour this week’s international climate strikes. On Friday, Sept. 27, Queen’s students have organized a strike of their own.

Our city’s declaration validates the concerns of our community. Canada’s stagnant approach to the climate crisis has frustrated many, particularly young people feeling the pressure to save our collective future.

We’re all too aware that if cities, provinces, and countries won’t do enough to combat the climate crisis, it falls to us as youth to fill the gaps and to hold them accountable.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s reassuring to know Kingston stands behind us.

—Journal Editorial Board


City of Kingston, climate emergency, Climate strike

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