Kingston’s development plans don’t honour the city’s climate emergency

Despite Kingston’s commitment to making the city greener, recent development plans have indicated the municipality’s priorities don’t lie in combatting the climate crisis.

In March 2019, City Council unanimously passed the motion to declare a state of climate emergency, becoming the first Ontario municipality to do so.To recognize the urgency of the climate crisis, the City committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a number of initiatives. Among these commitments are pledges to remove single-use plastics, clean up the city’s shoreline, and prioritize the construction of net-zero buildings within the Kingston community.

However, two and a half years since the climate emergency was declared, the City of Kingston still allows major development projects in both the downtown core and in more remote areas of the city. The plans suggest City Council’s priorities lie more in increasing capital than in fulfilling its commitment to the climate crisis.

The destruction of lesser-developed areas is concerning to Kingston residents. Though Kingston itself is relatively urban, it’s situated among rural land, which significantly reduces the effects of pollution on its citizens. While individuals living in highly concentrated urban zones face higher risks of pollution-related illnesses, people living in Kingston enjoy greater access to outdoor space less impacted by human development and destruction.

However, with an increased number of developments occurring in the city, this access to relatively clean outdoor space is diminished.

This past August, the City announced a deep-water cruise dock would be built behind the old Rockwood Asylum to promote tourism in the city.

In October 2020, it was revealed Patry Enterprises intended to build over 1,500 residential units over the Davis Tannery, a 13-hectare site considered to be a Provincially Significant Wetland. Due to a change in the provincial Ministerial Zoning Order, the City of Kingston is now well-positioned to fast-track the beginning of the development.

Not only does the decision to build deep-water cruise docks contribute to a major disruption in minimally developed land, the allowance of cruise ships in the city will cause a greater overall carbon footprint, as cruise ships use as much as 150 tonnes of fuel daily. Similarly, should the City allow the development of rental units over Davis Tannery, great destruction to the existing natural ecosystems in place will ensue.

Both developments also go directly against the City’s commitment to preserve Kingston’s shorelines.

This is particularly alarming, especially after the IPCC’s 2021 Climate Report declared to humanity a “code red” warning—signally, we are now at a point of no return for reducing the effects of climate change.

In combatting the climate crisis, action from all levels of government is critical towards mitigating the severity of the climate crisis. If the Kingston City Council wants to utilize its power to foster a greener city, it needs to reconsider its recognition of the climate crisis.

Cassidy is an MA Candidate in the Philosophy department and The Journal’s Opinions Editor.

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