Climate change is the most critical environmental issue of our time. You know it, I know it, and our representatives at city council know it. That is why it is crucial that our city adequately fund climate action in the upcoming budget.
On November 8th, when Mayor Jim Watson presented the 2018 draft budget for the City of Ottawa, climate change played a starring role. The draft budget was in many ways a reaction to the severe weather events that have been pounding Ottawa over the past few years - flash freezes, freak snowstorms, flooding from record rainfall events and tree damage from wind storms. The City of Ottawa will be spending millions of additional dollars on infrastructure to repair the damage that has been done.
Yet, for all the attention it pays to the problems caused by climate change, the city is dragging its feet on the solutions. The new money proposed for the City's plan to cut pollution and save energy - $500,000 - was far short of the $1.5 million called for by Ecology Ottawa, several councillors and other local groups. This means Ottawa will take baby steps on climate action when it should be moving in leaps and bounds. There is still time for the City to get back on track before the budget is finalized on December 13.
A properly funded clean energy strategy would provide Ottawa with an opportunity to attack the climate problem at its source - to make meaningful investments in solutions like renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. At the same time, a smart investment would yield other benefits. It would mean more locally-produced clean energy, more made-in-Ottawa research on climate solutions, and more efficiency investments that pay big dividends over the long term.
All of these solutions are at the city's fingertips - identified through the hard work of community stakeholders and City staff. But with the City's current funding commitment, Ottawa will barely scratch the surface in 2018. Beyond failing to invest in key projects, the City risks hobbling forward without adequate staff resources to get the job done.
Climate change waits for no one, and delayed action entails hard costs down the road. The time for action is now. Click here to send a message to your elected officials today: we need a fully-funded clean energy strategy in the 2018 budget.