What do you mean by a climate emergency?

AuthorRobinson, David
PositionEconomically Speaking

Great. Canada has declared a climate emergency.

So have Toronto, Sudbury, Vancouver, Kingston, Kenora, Ottawa, Peterborough, Chatham-Kent, and Canmore in Alberta. So far, 468 Canadian jurisdictions have passed binding resolutions. This is more than the U.K. and proportionally much more than the U.S. Strange to say, Canada seems to be a leader in saying the sky is falling.

That is not to say the sky isn't falling. Scientists agree we have an emergency, and so do most Canadians. As voters, Canadians overwhelmingly went for parties that seemed committed to slowing global warming. The real question is, if most Canadians agree there is a climate emergency, what should we be doing?

The Kingston city council has already laid out a list of actions. According to Coun. Robert Kiley, "We committed to electrifying our city transit fleet. We committed that all city buildings will have deep energy retrofits and move toward renewable energy and efficiencies. That allows us to set the tone for the entire community."

Kingston's plan to decarbonize municipal vehicles and buildings isn't very ambitious. It will be almost impossible not to electrify your public transit by 2040. Retrofitting municipal buildings will save more money than it costs. What is really needed is an active strategy that will get the entire population off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

The two most important targets are eliminating all fossil fuel vehicles and eliminating natural gas for heating, not just for the municipal fleet, but in every home and business. In other words, it means working to destroy the fossil fuel industry. Municipalities that declare a climate emergency have taken on a bigger problem than they thought.

They have to do much more than "set the tone" for their communities.

They have to find ways to actively discourage installing gas furnaces in new buildings and retrofits. They have to actively promote low carbon heating systems across their communities. They have to lobby for higher carbon fees.

Do councillors have the guts to advocate a higher carbon tax? Not many have so far, which shows they don't yet understand carbon pricing or the climate emergency. We know, for example, that some support the federal Conservative party's plan to remove the GST on heating fuels for seniors. They actually want to subsidize exactly what we need to get rid of. Better to just send cheques to needy seniors.

Municipalities will have to rework their zoning codes...

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