Cove: It’s time to support and re-define Ottawa’s electric bus pilot project

On April 24, Ottawa Council declared a climate emergency. Even a few months ago, few people would have expected this move. The objection to the word “emergency” by some councillors took on a dark irony the next day, when a state of emergency was declared due to almost unprecedented flooding in the region.

For some councillors, the main priority was making sure the motion was not merely symbolic. If the city was going to declare a climate emergency, there would have to be action associated with it. Coun. Catherine McKenney had already submitted a request to city staff to study the environmental and financial impacts of an electric bus pilot project for OC Transpo in February, giving people concerned about the environment, public health and public transit hope that an electric bus project could be a first step following the declaration.

Last week, OC Transpo replied to McKenney’s request saying it does not recommend an electric bus pilot project for Ottawa, arguing that it would be more cost-effective to focus on the LRT system and monitor electric bus pilots in other cities, such as Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. The cost of purchasing buses, retrofitting infrastructure to allow charging and training the workforce to support new technologies were all listed as reasons not to move forward with a pilot project. It would be better, Transpo said, to wait until the mid-2020s when a large portion of the existing fleet needs to be replaced anyway.

The cost of purchasing buses, retrofitting infrastructure to allow charging and training the workforce to support new technologies were all listed as reasons not to move forward.

The position omits one very important element of the pilot project: capacity building. A pilot project does not function solely to determine which electric bus model is best suited to Ottawa’s size and temperature range. It is also an opportunity to build the capacity for electric buses that will be needed in the long term. Infrastructure retrofitting and retraining programs would be expensive aspects of a pilot program: but they are necessary, and they will still be necessary in 2025 regardless of which buses are recommended by other cities.

Looking to the future, the transition to electric buses is going to become an even more pressing issue. As we get closer to the ecological tipping point where the disastrous effects of climate change become irreversible – which the United Nations says is only 11 years away – we will be forced to make large-scale changes to the systems we use every day. Delaying the pilot project is not a way of saving the city money, it simply reduces the timeline for an inevitable project.

When it comes to climate change, some politicians and decision-makers question whether we can afford to implement the programs necessary to create a green economy. It is far past the time to start asking if we can afford not to. This is one of the great rhetorical questions of the climate crisis. But I don’t mean it in a rhetorical sense; I am asking, quite literally, if our city can afford to delay the expenses required to mitigate climate change into the future.

Putting off this pilot project is like saying the housing market is too expensive, so instead of buying a fixer-upper now you’ll wait five years and buy a mansion. Rather than shutting down any hopes of an electric bus pilot project, why not change the scope of what a pilot project could mean? The route planning, infrastructure building and worker training will all have to be done at a community level – Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary can’t do it for us – so why not start it now?

Vicki Lynn Cove is a writer and activist based in Ottawa. She is a member of the Youth Climate Ambassadors and is working with the Healthy Transportation Coalition on the electric bus campaign.

This piece was originally posted as an Op-Ed in the Ottawa Citizen. To read the original article, click here. 

Photo of an electric bus is courtesy of Graham Hughes, via The Canadian Press 

Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale 2019

Version française ici

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019, 8am-4pm
680 Bank Street
Kunstadt parking lot

It’s our favourite time of year again… Soon the entire Glebe will be abuzz with lawn-hawking like you’ve never seen. It’s this annual mecca of bargain-hunters from near and far that gave birth to Ecology Ottawa’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale!

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ABOUT

We look forward to another Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale engaging Ottawa residents, greening up our tree canopy and have a lot of fun doing it.

At this year’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale, on Saturday, May 25, Ecology Ottawa’s amazing volunteers will distribute 1,000s of free tree saplings at the event and to shoppers throughout the neighbourhood! We’ll be giving away young seedlings, having conversations with people about local environmental issues and create a community hub at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot) with music, trees and other entertainments. 

Our energetic volunteers will fan out throughout the neighbourhood all day, giving away 1,000s of free trees! Be on the look out for smiling folks in green hard hats.

We encourage you to come get your free tree at our event headquarters at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot). In addition, we will be providing the public with access to portable washrooms, a hand washing station, and a water bottle refilling station—part of our commitment to the community.

Entertainment

  • 8:00am-12:00pm – DJs Hobo and Sweet Cheeks (DJs Hobo & Sweet Cheeks are Pawel Skorupski and Jose Palacios, founders of Kitchen Party. A wildly successful monthly dance party held in Ottawa, Canada.)
  • 12:00pm-4:00pm – Neighbour DJs

VOLUNTEER FOR THE EVENT

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Volunteers are at the heart of what makes the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale such a successful event. Help us organize and pull off the city’s biggest free tree giveaway ever.

Volunteering for this event is a lot of fun, and opportunities are available for folks of all ages. Food and refreshments will be provided. And yes, volunteering for the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale can count towards your high school volunteer requirement!

We are currently seeking volunteers to help with the following roles:

  • Distribute free trees to folks at our venue and throughout the neighbourhood,
  • Staff the Ecology Ottawa information table to answer questions about our programs, projects, and priorities,
  • Monitor waste from the event and make sure it is sorted properly (recycling, green bin, garbage, etc.),
  • Help set up the site before the event,
  • Take down tables, tents, barriers, etc.,
  • Pick up and drop-off donated or borrowed items from the event,
  • Baked goods donations to feed volunteers and to sell

We need your help the most on Saturday, May 25th, from 6 am to 6 pm, as well as the day before and the day after.

PLEASE COMPLETE OUR VOLUNTEER FORM and we will follow-up with you shortly. This will greatly help us coordinate the more than 100 volunteers we expect to sign up.

SPREAD THE WORD

Last, but not least, please tell all your friends, family, and colleagues in Ottawa about Ecology Ottawa’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale. We greatly appreciate you helping to get the word out.

  • Share our event with your friends on Facebook
  • Tweet about the event on Twitter

Thank you all for your incredible support and for helping to make this event the best and greenest ever! We hope to see you on Saturday, May 25 at 680 Bank Street (in the Kunstadt parking lot).

PARTNERS, SPONSORS, AND SUPPORTERS

On behalf of Ecology Ottawa and the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale, we would like to thank our generous past and present partners, sponsors, and supporters. We would also like to thank the Glebe Community Association for organizing the community-wide Great Glebe Garage Sale. And the biggest thanks of all goes to the generous donors and tireless volunteers who are the lifeblood of this event. Without all this support, the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale would not be possible. THANK YOU ALL!

Major partners

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Join us for audits of Baseline and Blair LRT stations

In Ottawa, 40% of city-wide greenhouse gas emissions stem from transportation. This means addressing climate change must involve making our commuting patterns less greenhouse gas-intensive. When light rail transit (LRT) comes online, it will put 70% of Ottawans within five kilometres of a major transit hub. This provides an opportunity to scale up sustainable transportation through integration of active transportation (cycling and pedestrian) connections to LRT.

Our LRT project aims to identify opportunities to improve sustainable transportation access points to light rail transit (LRT) stations. This project will result in widespread public engagement, as well as two station-specific research reports at Baseline and Blair stations. The reports will contain recommendations on opportunities to design and build active transportation infrastructure in order to make sustainable transportation safer and more accessible for all users.

Ecology Ottawa will be conducting four active transportation audits (one by foot, one by bike) for both stations. With a group of volunteers, we will walk and bike predetermined routes near the stations and take notes on what we encounter along the way. Our hope is to learn more about the challenges and opportunities for travel to and from Baseline and Blair stations.

Join us for our active transportation audits by RSVP to the links below
Baseline station walk audit  – June 1, 10am – 12pm  https://www.ecologyottawa.org/baseline_station_walk_audit 
Baseline station bike audit  – June 1, 1pm – 3pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/baseline_station_cycling_audit
Blair station walk audit – July 6, 10am – 12pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/blair_station_walk_audit 
Blair station bike audit  – July 6, 1pm – 3pm https://www.ecologyottawa.org/blair_station_cycling_audit

BRITANNIA COMMUNITY GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE EVENT

COME TO OUR COMMUNITY EVENT IN BRITANNIA!

A fun community barbecue to celebrate summer, Britannia residents, and the green infrastructure work we’ve done together this year! Come out and get your free

  • Tree seedlings 
  • Splash guards 
  • Downspout redirects 

WHEN: June 29, 2019 at 11am – 2pm

WHERE: Britannia Park – Trolley Station
Ottawa, ON K2B 5Z6
Canada

CLICK HERE TO JOIN OUR BRITANNIA COMMUNITY GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE EVENT

Make Climate Action an Election Priority!

In the last 3 years, Ottawa has seen catastrophic floods predicted to occur only once every 100 years. We have 11 years left to take bold climate action before this becomes the new normal.

The upcoming federal election is a chance to create a movement for change, one that will transition us to a clean economy and resilient world. We can’t afford to wait. The time is now.

To get involved, email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca .


Photo of Kanata-Carleton Riding

This election season, we’ll be canvassing in Kanata-Carleton.

Priorities:

Push for all parties to adopt strong climate platforms

Engage residents in discussions around voting for climate

What are the ways I can help?

ORGANIZE! Lead a team of volunteers. To apply to a coordinator position, email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca  for more information.

RSVP FOR THE VOLUNTEER TRAINING: Sign up here.

If you can’t make the volunteer training, email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca and sign up to become a volunteer here.

OFFER YOUR SKILLS! Are you a talented videographer? Musician? Event planner? Communications expert? Email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca with your skill!

BECOME A MOVEMENT HOUSE! Do you live in Kanata? We need lawns for signs, garages for storage, and living rooms for community-building. Email alison.gu@ecologyottawa.ca.

Renewable City Campaign Meeting

Join us on Thursday, May 30th, from 6:00-8:00 pm for an open discussion on climate action in the city of Ottawa and possible opportunities coming up. We’re at an exciting moment in Ottawa, with lots of energy, potential, and attention focused on climate action. We invite you to come out and have your say in what Ecology Ottawa’s Renewable City campaign looks like over the next few months.

Though we won’t have childcare provided, the space is child friendly: we’ll make sure to have craft supplies and distractions in place for little ones, so please feel free to bring them along!

This meeting will be held at Ecology Ottawa offices: 1 Nicholas Street, suite 430

RSVP for the Renewable City Campaign Meeting here.

Explainer: Is climate change the cause of the 2019 Ottawa River flooding?

Lots of people struggle with the idea that our current flooding may be caused by climate change. For example Ottawa city councillor Eli El-Chantiry on CBC with Robyn Bresnahan said:

“Quite honestly — I’m a little bit — start to think about — like they told us it happened once in a hundred years. Now it happened in two years. So it’s gotta be something has changed. And what caused that change and what we need to change as well. And I know somebody says it’s climate change. I get that, it’s climate change. It has not much changed the climate on us in the last two years. So the first time you had that type of flooding was in 90 years; exactly 89 years and now you’re having it again in two years. So, has something severely changed? I think — I don’t know, I don’t have the answer. All what I can tell you, all communities from here to Temiskaming, they’re at risk, and all the way to Montreal, so it’s not just our area specifically. There’s something really — some, and some answer — had — I don’t have the answer for that question.”

Councillor El-Chantiry isn’t alone in wrestling with this one.

When we hear that a weather event is a once in a 100-year event we shouldn’t think “ah, we had a flood last year, now we’re safe for 99 years” any more than we would think “heads or tails, there’s a 50/50 chance, I got heads last time, so I’m certain to get tails this time.” That 100-year weather event is an expression of probability. There’s a one percent chance of such weather in any given year.

Probability is confusing. Even over 100 years there isn’t 100% chance of that 100-year weather event. According to the US National Weather Service Flood Return Period Calculator in a 100 years there is only a 63.4% chance of a 100-year weather event.

How those probabilities are calculated are from records of the past. But records don’t exist for every aspect of weather for every place or for all that many decades into the past. So probabilities are calculated from the partial records that do exist. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site Weather.gov has an explainer on how partial data is used to produce probabilities of 100-year or even 1,000-year events.

Borrowed from NOAA explainer

In short, the partial data is plotted on a graph and a curve is generated that fits the data. New data might change the shape of the curve. There is always some sort of weather so the area under the curve adds up to 100% probability. It’s a little bit of the unlikely plus a larger dollop of the more likely. The fat part in the middle of the curve is the most likely and the skinny part off to the right, where the curve is getting flatter and flatter, is where things are less and less likely. The 100-year event corresponds to the place where there’s only 1% of the area under the curve out there to the right.

All this is true without climate change.

The prominent climate scientist James Hansen has compared climate change to loading the dice of extreme weather probability so that extremes are becoming more likely.

Spring temp increases in Ontario & Quebec

When we hear weather forecasters talk about a given day’s weather and compare it to “normal” they are using a figure for “normal” that is an average of 30 years for  that day’s date. Climatologists have long known that “normal” changes over time and so every ten years they update “normal” to be based on the most recent 30 years.

The 2019 Canada’s Changing Climate Report tells us that Ontario and Quebec have both experienced warmer spring temperatures and increased winter and spring precipitation since 1948.

So for the Ottawa River watershed there is on average more snow in the winter, melting more quickly in the spring, accompanied by more spring rain; three important factors that influence flooding.

Some of these data points will have been accounted for in the 100-year probability forecasts, but not all; and it is the more recent data that are least likely to have been included while at the same time being the most likely to represent a change from the historic values. That doesn’t mean floods every year, but it does mean a new shape to those curves fitted to the data. It does mean water levels that once had 1% probability now have something higher.

For decades scientists have hated the question “was this event caused by climate change.” The careful answer has been that climate change increased the likelihood of it happening. But in recent years some scientists have begun calculating how much the likelihood has increased due to climate change. This is called “attribution” and instead of avoiding saying an event was caused by climate change, they can say climate change made the event a certain percent more likely to happen.

The Canada’s Changing Climate Report includes projections. Under certain scenarios* extreme precipitation events expected once in 50 years may become once in 10 year events.

So if we’re seeing an increased frequency of flooding of the Ottawa River, we’re seeing the beginnings of what climate science predicts. It’s a pretty subtle difference but the reason we can’t say climate change caused this flood is that the changing climate is analogous to loading dice to come up six more often, but that doesn’t imply that unloaded dice never come up six.

No time to celebrate

Photo credit: Wikipedia commons

This past weekend, we were planning to write you about good news from city hall. Last Wednesday, Ottawa joined hundreds of cities across Canada in declaring a climate emergency. We were elated that our municipal leaders voted overwhelmingly to show leadership on the climate crisis, and we wanted to spread the word. 

Recent events have overshadowed this jubilant mood. Over the weekend, flooding devastated homes and communities all over the Ottawa area. As we write this, area dams are buckling under the force of water, and the Ottawa River has yet to crest. Lives are being interrupted and thrown into disarrayAnd after the third year in a row of extreme weather disasters, Ottawans are wrestling with a sense of climate anxiety that no longer feels distant or abstract. 

During the debate around council’s climate emergency declaration, some councillors had asked if climate change was a “real” emergency – on par with crises like opiate addiction, homelessness and violence in our streets. The answer – sadly – is all too obvious now. Climate change is undeniably a real emergency, and its impacts will be felt even more deeply in the years to come. It’s not yet clear if spring flooding will be a disastrous new normal for our city. But it’s clear that climate change poses more than a single threat, and can upend the status quo with alarming speed and violence.   

This is why tackling climate change is the most urgent issue of our time.Action in cities like Ottawa, which are directly or indirectly responsible for half of Canadian emissions, is critical. Council’s declaration of climate emergency is a positive step, and is more than symbolic. In fact, it moves forward at least five critical elements. Click here to read more abouthow this declaration moves the needle on important issues like climate equity, resiliency, and aligning Ottawa’s emissions goals with scientific requirements

As Councillor Shawn Menard noted last week, Ottawa is still at the beginning stages of responding to the climate crisis. Now, we must demand that council be bold in its plan for change. Put simply, we have 11 years to do three big things. We must dramatically change how we heat, cool and electrify our buildings. We must dramatically reduce emissions from how we move around our city. Finally, we must plan the future development of our city in a way that makes the first and second goals easier to accomplish.

There are so many opportunities to tackle these big challenges in the months and years ahead – from putting a stop to wasteful urban sprawl, to making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, to creating a green jobs boom by retrofitting our buildings. There’s still time to tackle the climate crisis while building a better city, but we must act now. 

In the meantime, we urge you to help our friends and neighbours who are most in need at this critical time. Click here to find out about how you can volunteer to help

Explainer: What Does the Climate Emergency Resolution Mean for Ottawa?

On Wednesday, April 24th, City Council passed a resolution declaring Climate Emergency in Ottawa, and in doing so joined numerous other Canadian municipalities in committing to climate action in our community with renewed vigour and determination. Though the motion wasn’t passed unanimously, as was the case in other municipalities (Ottawa’s motion was opposed by three councillors) this resolution signals a shift in city council: from an era of slow-footed movement on climate, to one of rapid, rigorous change for the better. A new era heralded by this motion, the upcoming release of  Energy Evolution Phase 2, and the development of a climate resiliency plan, will be one in which we begin to tackle climate change with the kind of scale and attention the crisis truly requires.

There are five main aspects of the resolution that we at Ecology Ottawa are really enthusiastic about, because the climate emergency declaration is not purely symbolic. These five critical elements (as we see them) are as follows:

  1. It fast-tracks work on renewable energy and energy conservation programs, as well as technical analysis. This comes at a cost of $250,000, which is $100,000 more than the City spent on its flagship Energy Evolution program in the last municipal budget.

  2. It incorporates an “equity and inclusion” lens into climate planning. For the first time, Ottawa will now need to think proactively about how our most vulnerable residents are impacted by climate change.

  3. It calls on the city to incorporate climate change as a Term of Council Priority. Over the next few months, council will debate its policy priorities for the duration of its term. It is critical that climate change be included as a major priority, and that concrete policy measures and funding flow from this prioritization.  

  4. It calls on the city to issue a climate resiliency strategy. A resilience plan, where Ottawa outlines how it will cope with climate impacts and risks, is something the city has been promising since at least 2011. One more push to get this strategy out the door is welcome and useful.

  5. It calls on the city to analyze how our municipal emissions reduction targets line up with IPCC requirements for limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Currently, Ottawa’s emission targets are based on provincial targets rather than on scientific evidence. It’s highly likely that the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will require us to act more urgently and ambitiously.

 

The above are the highlights of the resolution: the overall themes, and those few things that we really take heart, and find meaning in when we study the declaration. If you’re eager to learn a bit more about the resolution and really “dig into the weeds” with us, keep reading, because we’re here to break down the resolution for you. Over the following paragraphs, we’ll take you through each of the motion’s 8 points, and hopefully provide you with a deeper understanding of the city’s undertaking with their declaration of “climate emergency.”  

We’ve chosen to leave the preamble, or “Background” and “Whereas” sections of the resolution out of our review, as they don’t really require much explanation. What you can read below is a clause-by-clause dissection of the implications of the resolution, made easy to understand, and wrap your brain around.

Each clause, lifted directly from the text, is in bold lettering, and is followed by a paragraph of explanation. 

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council officially declare a climate emergency for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems, and our community from climate change;

First off, it should be noted that the use of the term “emergency” in this first point does not mean that passing of this motion puts into effect a “state of emergency” in the formal sense. Instead, use of the term “emergency” is intended, like the above text says  “for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment”. This differs from a formal state of emergency like that declared by Mayor Watson on April 25th, 2019 which put into effect emergency measures and funding in order to rapidly take action to prevent and mitigate flood damage along the Ottawa River.

 

THAT COUNCIL establish a Council Sponsors Group comprised of representatives from the Standing Committees on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management, Planning Committee, Transportation Committee, Transit Commission and the Councillor Liaison of Environment Stewardship Advisory Committee;

A Council Sponsors’ Group is an ad-hoc committee comprised of councillors sitting on a variety of official city committees (like the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management which approved the climate emergency motion before it went to Council.) In this Council Sponsors Group, these councillors, representing a wide array of municipal concerns, will gather to informally discuss how to embed a climate change lens in decisions that are made by Committees which wouldn’t otherwise consider environment and climate.

 

THAT COUNCIL direct City staff to include the following in the review and update of the AQCCMP:

  • An analysis of how the AQCCMP’s long term target to reduce GHG emissions 80% below 2012 levels by 2050 compares to the IPCC’s targets for limiting global warming to 1.5 ºC
  • Midterm (2030) corporate and community GHG emission reduction targets
  • Climate Change mitigation and adaptation priorities for next five years (2019-2024) to embed climate change considerations across all elements of City business;

Last updated in 2014, the AQCCMP is Ottawa’s Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan: a lengthy document that aims to lay out a framework for climate mitigation and adaptation over the next 20 years in the city of Ottawa. The document is being revisited this year, and with the passing of this motion (specifically the above points), the city has committed to including in the 2019 review a comparison with how our greenhouse gas reduction targets compare with those laid out by the UN IPCC* recent report on 1.5C.  It was in this report (issued last November) that we found out that in order to limit warming to 1.5C and keep the planet (mostly) liveable, we’ll have to reduce our emissions by as much as 107% by 2050, and get on that pathway within the next 12 years. The above points also commit city staff to developing “midpoint targets” for both the City of Ottawa’s emissions, as well as our community emissions- allowing us to see where we’ll have to be by 2030 if we’re going to hit our current reduction targets of 80% reductions by 2050. The third point above is exciting because it’s requiring the city to consider mitigation and adaptation measures in all city business, taking care to develop priority actions for the next five years.

*UN IPCC= United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

THAT COUNCIL direct City staff to include the following in the Energy Evolution Final Report:

  • Status update of Energy Evolution Phase 1 actions
  • New concrete actions and resource implications (staff and financial) to achieve GHG emission reduction targets
  • Use an equity and inclusion lens in the prioritization of actions
  • Funding and savings options for the City when implementing emission reductions;

Energy Evolution is the City of Ottawa’s renewable energy strategy: designed to help the city manage energy consumption, and promote renewable energy. Initially received by council in 2017, “Phase 2” of the strategy is being released at the end of 2019. With the motion passing, City staff will have to ensure future Energy Evolution documentation will include progress updates on any actions proposed by Energy Evolution Phase 1, and develop new innovations to reduce our citywide greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% by 2050. This clause also includes language about “equity and inclusion” as it pertains to climate change- something we don’t always see from the City, and something that is a very welcome and very necessary addition. We know that the effects of climate change are felt most acutely by marginalized peoples, lower income communities, children, and the elderly. We’re excited to see that the city is taking seriously the fact that it’s those vulnerable people who must be protected and prioritized in any environment and climate policy.

 

THAT COUNCIL direct City staff to report back, within the 2019 calendar year, on a spending plan for the Hydro Ottawa Dividends Surplus that would help reduce community and corporate GHG emissions beyond the scope of the City’s current climate targets while also saving money;

Simply put: They city needs to plan for money it makes by investing in energy efficiency measures and renewable energy (Hydro Ottawa Dividends Surplus) to be dedicated and diverted toward greenhouse gas reduction measures that will take us beyond the scope of our current reduction target of 80% by 2050.

 

THAT COUNCIL direct City staff to complete a vulnerability assessment and develop a climate resiliency strategy to reduce the impacts of a changing climate;

Development of a climate adaptation plan or “resiliency strategy” is something that was actually Mandated by AQCCMP back in 2011, but as of today, has yet to surface. We’re excited that the City of Ottawa is finally beginning to get this particular show on the road, as we are already beginning to feel the effects of climate change within our city. Last years’ intense heat waves and tornado, and the flooding we’re currently experiencing, are evidence to the need for a climate resiliency strategy for our community– to ensure that we know what to expect in coming decades, and that we’re prepared for dealing with potential disaster.

 

THAT COUNCIL recognize climate change as a strategic priority in the City’s strategic plan and accompanying budget directions for the remaining Term of Council;

In past years, council has devoted funding and resources towards those few issues it deems to be Term of Council “Strategic Priorities” (usually about 8 main priorities are set per term.) With this point in the motion we’re hoping to see an as-of-yet unprecedented amount of funding and resource allocation go towards climate change issues and solutions.

 

THAT COUNCIL work with senior levels of government to accelerate ambition and action to meet the urgency of climate change and provide additional resources for municipalities and the public to reduce their GHG emissions and build resiliency to climate impacts.

This final piece of the motion, though it might look like nothing more than flowery language, is actually of importance in setting the tone for climate action from the City going forward. Within this one sentence it’s made clear that Council stand up to provincial and federal governments, demanding stronger climate action, and support from them. So much of what we do at a municipal level is determined by funding we receive from senior levels of government, and it is only if we have their financial support that we’ll succeed in our ambitions.  

 

The City of Ottawa’s Climate Emergency Motion is by no means the be-all-and-end-all of they City’s municipal climate policy. In so many ways it is only the beginning– the tip of the municipal climate policy iceberg, but still, it has such potential for impact. Cities in Canada are responsible for approximately 50% of all emissions across the country. If Ottawa, and other cities like it who have declared Climate Emergency live up to the responsibilities they lay out in motions like the one passed by our Council on the 24th, we have a very real chance of building the sort of healthy, vibrant, adaptive, and resilient city that we’ll need if we’re to weather the many storms we have yet to face. This past week has made us confident in the City’s commitment, and even more confident in the peoples’ commitment: after all, none of this would have happened without the voices of thousands of Ottawans coming together to demand this action of our representatives. We hope you draw as much strength from this motion being passed as we do, Ottawa, and that with this change, you feel empowered to take further action to defend our community, and to defend our climate.

 

Ecology Ottawa’s work is funded by contributions from members of the Ottawa community. To support the work of Ecology Ottawa, and initiates like our push for a Climate Emergency Declaration, consider donating today. 

 

Victory at the Environment Committee!

April 16 was a historic day for climate action in Ottawa. The Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management voted 6-2 to declare Climate Emergency.

The day started early for Ecology Ottawa supporters! At 8:30 AM, an hour before the committee meeting started, over 200 Ottawans rallied outside City Hall to demand stronger, bolder climate action. Creative signs in hand, people of all ages arrived on foot, by bicycle, and public transit, embodying the the greener, healthier future we all fight for.

Coming together with chants of “defend our community, defend our climate!” we first heard from Ecology Ottawa Executive Director Robb Barnes about the choice between climate disasters and bold solutions that defend our climate and build a better city. Councillor Shawn Menard, the mover of the climate emergency motion, spoke not only of the details of the motion, but also the time to demand solutions from our politicians.

“For too long politicians have dithered on this issue. We’re not asking for change, we’re demanding it!” said Councillor Menard, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.

Ainsley Skelly, a grade 12 student from Nepean High School, also spoke at the rally, addressing the audience and speaking to her experience as a young person growing up in an era of climate catastrophe, the mental and physical health affects that climate change will have on our community, and the need for rapid action from government representatives.

Following rousing speeches from Angela Keller-Herzog and Emelie Taman, the Raging Grannies lead us all in two songs, about turning down the heat, and turning up ambition in the city of Ottawa.

Those gathered outside were optimistic – it’s hard not to be when surrounded by so many people, from all walks of life, all uniting behind a single cause – however, that doesn’t mean the crowd wasn’t a ferocious one! Twice during the rally the crowd joined together in boisterous chants asking “Where’s our Mayor!?” Palpable in the air was the strong desire for Council to take a stand, declare a state of climate emergency, and finally take climate change seriously as a crisis.

Following the rally, masses of motion supporters flooded into city hall hoping to witness the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management vote to pass the motion, but we were all disappointed to find that the room designated for the Committee meeting was too small to accommodate all of the nearly 200 motion supporters. After being told the meeting could be viewed in an overflow room, many of us filtered into the much larger, unoccupied space, somewhat confused as to why the meeting couldn’t be moved, and aggrieved upon realizing that the livestream wouldn’t include a visual feed.

Throughout the day, nearly 100 supporters stuck it out, waiting, listening, and watching through nearly 6 hours of Committee processes before the Climate Emergency Resolution was discussed.

The list of delegates speaking to the importance and necessity of the motion was long and impressive. Noteable among those addressing the Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management were Diane Beckett of Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES), local lawyer and politician Emelie Taman, delegates from the Ottawa Transit Riders Assocation, Dr. Curtis Lavoie a physian at CHEO, and Ecology Ottawa’s Robb Barnes.

Jerry Fiori of the Ottawa Disability Coalition spoke to the issue of climate change, and the risks it poses especially to disabled Ottawans, quoting Karen Scott of the MS Society when he said “People with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) are the canaries in the climate change coal mine.” Mr Fiori went on to elaborate that rising temperatures, erratic seasons, and more extreme rain and snowfall put disabled communities at great risk of physical harm, and that a climate emergency motion is a step towards better providing for disabled Ottawans.

Also among the speakers was Chloe Rourke who took the day off work to sit through the entirety of the 8 hour meeting, and address the committee. Tearful at times, Ms Rourke spoke to the committee about disastrous consequences climate change will bear for people, citing crop failure, extreme heat, major flooding, and potential economic collapse among the reasons why the Climate Emergency Resolution is necessary for the city of Ottawa. Closing her remarks, and speaking to those Councillors skeptical of the climate crisis: Chloe Rourke somberly stated “reality is coming whether you like it or not”.

One of the last delegates to speak before Council voted on the resolution was Mia Beijer of Future Rising (the local youth organization behind Ottawa’s Friday Climate Strikes on Parliament Hill.) The sixteen year old pulled no punches, telling councilors that “debating about whether or not to declare climate emergency is ridiculous when we’re living in a climate crisis.” reminding them that “it is up to you to decide what this council’s legacy will be” finally beseeching the committee by saying “please don’t kill us, save us” in one of many moving moments in the Champlain Committee Room that afternoon.

Finally the time came for councilors to state their opinions, and cast their votes.

Throughout the committee’s discussion period was plenty of praise for the resolution itself, with comments from several of the councilors touching on the fact that the resolution is not without teeth. With it’s 8 action items it provides the city with multiple avenues through which to pursue more rigorous, ambitious, and equitable climate action.

Councillor McKenney spoke specifically to the need to ensure the city’s actions on climate need to centre vulnerable communities “when disaster happens, it’s not to us, it is to people who live in poverty […] is it the people who can least afford it.” McKenny went on to comment that the equity and inclusion pieces of the motion were the most important, that it is through these lenses that our actions must be conducted.

It should be noted that there was some pushback registered by councilors Darouze and Hubley, with Hubley stating that he believed Ottawa was already doing quite a bit more than other cities, and that the inclusion of the term “emergency” was ultimately most offputting about the motion.

When time came for the resolution to be voted on at approximately 4:30pm, it passed successfully, with votes registering 6 – 2 in favour, and a burst of (prohibited) applause from the gallery. Among those who supported the motion were Councilors Menard, McKenney, Elgli, Cloutier, Brockington, and Moffatt, with Councilors Hubley and Darouze being the only two to reject the resolution.

The next step in the resolution’s path to adoption is the full City Council vote, taking place next Wednesday, April 24th at 10:00am in City Hall. It is incredibly important that over the next week we demonstrate to our representatives the neccessity of this resolution, and our desire for meaningful climate action from city hall. Before next Wednesday we need you to call, email, or tweet at your councilor, asking them to support the resolution. It’s only by hearing from you, the constituents, that council will know that they have our support in declaring Climate Emergency. Finally, join us once again on Wednesday, April 24th in the morning to stand together in support of our city, our community, and our climate.

To read the Climate Emergency Resolution, motioned by Councillor Shawn Menard, and passed on April 16th by the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management click here (the resolution beings on page 5)

To contact your councilor ahead of next Wednesday’s full council vote on the Resolution, click here for their contact information.

Extinction Rebellion is planning rally at 9:30 AM next Wednesday, before the council vote. Join them.