Ottawa takes first step with climate emergency declaration, bold action must follow

Prince Edward Council has not declared a climate emergency. Why not? Do they really expect citizens to avoid climate change? Climate leadership is conspicuously missing.

How does this motion measure up to Extinction Rebellion’s core demands?

Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Twitter
On April 24, Ottawa City Council voted in favour of an eight-point motion to declare a climate emergency.

Extinction Rebellion, an international grassroots climate justice group, argues that governments must declare climate and ecological emergencies, and work with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. The Ottawa motion lacks language about communicating the urgency for change to the federal and provincial governments, as well as to city residents.

The group also demands that governments act immediately to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. Ottawa’s motion only calls for the city to adopt a target of a 45 per cent reduction in 2010 levels by 2030.

Extinction Rebellion’s third core demand is the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly to lead decision-making and inform the government on climate and ecological justice. While the Ottawa motion calls for the establishment of a Council Sponsors Group, there is no clear indication of how the broader public would be able to meaningfully participate in this process.

What should the Council Sponsors Group, as created by the Ottawa motion, demand?

  1. The City of Ottawa should commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a key demand made by Extinction Rebellion.
  2. The City of Ottawa should commit (as the City of Vancouver is considering) to a target of two-thirds of trips in the city to be taken by walking, cycling, and public transit by 2030.
  3. Given that transportation accounts for more than 30 per cent of Ontario’s carbon footprint, the City of Ottawa should commit to improving public transportation across the city and piloting free public transit (as has been considered in other international cities, including Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen, and Mannheim).
  4. Given Ontario Premier Doug Ford has just cancelled the 50 Million tree planting program, the City of Ottawa should commit to an ambitious tree planting program. Paris committed to planting 20,000 trees between 2014 and 2020.
  5. The City of Ottawa should endorse (as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and numerous other cities have already done) the international Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration that pledges to enact regulations and/or planning policy to ensure new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings by 2050.
  6. The City of Ottawa should explore innovative ideas being pursued by other cities including: green streets and pocket parks to catch and absorb excess rainwater (Copenhagen), initiatives to support energy-efficient retrofits (Melbourne), and the promotion of local food production (Quito has set a goal of producing 30-40 per cent of its food locally).
  7. To pay for some of this, the City of Ottawa should send a climate accountability letter to Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and other fossil fuel corporations to demand they pay their fair share of the costs that cities are incurring because of climate change. The City of Victoria’s motion on this (passed in October 2017) called on other municipalities across Canada to pass similar resolutions.

It is also vital that the City of Ottawa find its voice on the issue of the approval and construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure. MORE

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