Ottawa residents are facing an unprecedented opportunity for a breakthrough on climate change over the next year.
We have entered one of those rare periods when our municipal, provincial and federal governments all have a mandate for action and a desire to move in the right direction. Each level of government is in the process of crafting its own response to the climate challenge and the combined result of their work will be a path forward that is filled with major milestones and specific deadlines.
This means that over the next 12 to 18 months, we will have one opportunity after another to say "Yes!!!" to the things that we want. And if people who care about climate change can rally around these key moments - support politicians that are prepared to show leadership and demand action from those that are not - then we will be able to look back on this period as a watershed for the direction of our city, our province, and our country.
No matter how much time and energy you have, you can be part of this potentially historic change, and it all starts on February 16th at City Hall.
Next Tuesday’s Environment Committee meeting will be packed with action on climate change and there has never been a more important time for you to tell your mayor and city councillor that you want to see leadership on this critical issue. You DO NOT need to be a policy expert on the minute details of what is being brought forward (though you can find a lot of additional information below). A simple phone call or email letting the Mayor and your city councillor know that you want them to push for action on climate change can help sweep away resistance and embolden leadership.
You can also show your support by attending the Environment Committee meeting on February 16 (it starts at 9:30am at City Hall and will likely run through the morning). Audience numbers count, it is one way that Councillors know that people are concerned about the issue. The public have the right to speak, so consider taking the opportunity to speak in person at the committee in support of the motion and strong action on climate change.
So what exactly is on the table at the Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 16?
The meeting will include a report on the emerging Renewable Energy Strategy for the City of Ottawa, scheduled to undergo consultations in the coming months and be completed by the end of the year. It will also include an update on the implementation of the City’s multi-faceted climate change plan, and a new motion, brought forward by the Chair of the Environment Committee, Councillor David Chernushenko. The motion proposes five things:
That the City strengthen its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to match the more ambitious Ontario provincial target;
That Mayor Jim Watson join an international climate initiative called “the Compact of Mayors”;
That David Chernushenko work with multiple city departments and outside groups to generate an implementation plan to reach the more ambitious targets;
That city staff study the feasibility of setting minimum energy efficiency standards for new construction in Ottawa, and;
That the Environment Committee change its name to the Environment and Climate Protection Committee.
If you really want to dig into the details, you can see the text of the actual motion here. You can also find our summary of the contents of the motion here. And you can find all of the documents related to the committee meeting here (the committee meeting documents have just been released, so we do not yet have a thorough analysis).
What’s the big picture?
February 16th is one of a series of municipal, provincial and federal moments over the course of the year where a little bit of your time can go a long, long way. Think of it as three paths leading to one destination:
The City will be following through on a series of existing commitments, including the implementation of its Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, as well as rolling out a new Water Environment Strategy and Forest Management Plan. In addition, it will be holding consultations and finalizing a new and ambitious Renewable Energy Strategy;
The Government of Ontario will finally be moving forward with their commitment to put a price on greenhouse gas pollution as well as rolling out the details of their broader climate protection plan, and;
In early-March, the Government of Canada will be launching a national framework for climate action followed by a series of public consultations as a new federal climate change plan emerges over the course of the year. They will also be launching an infrastructure plan that could help drive important transportation and green infrastructure changes across the country.
Together we can increase investment in public transit, electric vehicles, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. We can adopt energy efficiency programs that save us money, green infrastructure programs that protect our homes from severe weather, and renewable energy and carbon pricing initiatives that will help break our dependence on fossil fuels. Over the next 12 to 18 months we can lock-in specific victories that create rewarding jobs we can all be proud of and that show the world we care about the impacts of climate change.
It has been a long time since there has been a sense of hope in the air when it comes to taking action on climate change and clean energy in Canada. It’s going be a truly exciting year and there is a huge amount of work left to be done in order to finally tip the scales in the right direction. If we succeed, it will be because people in Ottawa, and in Ontario, and across Canada, work together to demand action.
Staff and volunteer leaders at Ecology Ottawa are committed to ensuring that you are aware of key moments to speak up and be heard. You do not need to dedicate your whole life to this issue in order to make a difference. No matter how much time you have, this year is an opportunity for you to be part of the change that you want to see in the world, and it all starts February 16th.
So please contact your councillor and the mayor and let them know that you want the City of Ottawa to be part of the solution on climate change. A simple message, at a key moment, lets them know that you care. You can find contact information for all city Councillors here, and Mayor Jim Watson can be reached at (613) 580-2496 or[email protected] or tweet @JimWatsonOttawa
And feel free to contact us if you have any questions, comments or concerns. Email us and we’ll get back to you.
Thanks for all you do,
Graham, Charles, Gene, Alex, Robb, Estelle, Velta, Camila and the whole Ecology Ottawa Team