On Tuesday night, city councillors voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency in Kingston.
Councillor Robert Kiley, the representative of the Trillium district, moved the motion which was voted unanimously into action.
The motion read that the City “officially declare a climate emergency for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our eco-systems, and our community from climate change.”
Declaring a climate emergency will formalize Kingston’s commitment to the environment—making the reduction of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions priorities as council moves into their strategic planning period in the coming weeks.
One of the delegations in support of the motion was a group of five undergraduate students from the Queen’s School of Environmental Studies.
Speaking before the council, Mia Berloni, ArtSci ’19, raised concerns about the economic, ecological, and social impact of climate change.
“Kingston prides itself on its climate action plan. The next step in continuing Kingston’s leadership in climate policy is declaring a climate emergency. The time to act is now,” she said.
Grace Leyden, Sabrina Weber, Teeghan Niblett-Wilson, and Julia Weder, all ArtSci ’19, also addressed the council.
“This is not tomorrow’s emergency, this is today’s,” Weder said. “The community has shown that they care about this issue.”
Councillor Kiley asked the delegation what Kingston should be doing to reduce its emissions.
In response, Weder called for more precise action plans and an accelerated scale of change.
Councillor Ryan Boehme, of the Pittsburgh district, questioned the effectiveness of Kingston’s efforts on a global scale.
“We’re just one municipality—so yes we could be a leader, but how do we counter that another country in the world could just decide to do nothing?” he asked.
“The way that we can make a difference is to change the mentality,” answered Weder. “We’re potentially encouraging other municipalities worldwide to take action as well. It’s a call to action as I see it.”
Following the council meeting, Niblett-Wilson told The Journal it was inspiring to see council pass the motion. She said she hopes the declaration will frame policy moving forward.
Following the delegation of Queen’s students was Kingston Climate Hub—a community organization aimed at increasing climate literacy.
Co-founders Emily Ferguson and Colleen Gareau called for councillors to limit GHG emissions by 16 per cent during their terms.
Kiley opened the motion discussion period by arguing that declaring a climate emergency would provide cohesion to environmental efforts, and warned that its climate action would be fragmented without.
Boehme, again, raised his concerns over the effectiveness of declaring an emergency.
“When we look at this in the grand scheme of things, we can do everything at [the] municipal level right, and some other country could just decide to do nothing and could counteract what we’re doing,” he said.
Boehme suggested the City focus on becoming a technological hub for the creation of solutions that reduce or mitigate climate change.
Councillor of Loyalist-Catarqui Simon Chapelle echoed his colleague’s concerns by adding that Kingston need not lead by declaring an emergency. He hopes the declaration won’t divert attention from attracting socially conscious corporate investors to the city.
Mayor Bryan Paterson closed the discussion, calling for clearer communication to the public of what the declaration means.
Expanding on Boehme’s suggestion, Paterson added, “There are technologies that could be developed here in Kingston that could be an export to other communities across the province and around the world—that’s the sort of thing that can move the needle on a global issue.”
“Let’s look for opportunities to be leaders, not only by leading by example, but let’s harness the power of innovation to make a difference beyond Kingston,” Paterson said.
city council, meeting, Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change
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