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Councillors declare climate emergency in Woolwich

Climate change is not only real, emergency measures are warranted to help stave off the worst of its impacts, say Woolwich councillors.

“It is a climate emergency. This is what we’re facing – call it what it is.” Kai Reimer-Watts

Meeting Tuesday night, they declared a climate emergency, joining several hundred other jurisdictions on the planet that have taken the same stance in response to a warming world.

“Climate change is affecting all of us, even here. We have to do something now,” said Coun. Patrick Merlihan in calling for meaningful changes in the township rather than just a statement.

To that end, he’s looking to institute a carbon budget into the mix when the township begins putting together its traditional financial budget.

The concept of a carbon budget mirrors financial budgeting in that it treats emissions as if they were a limited resource, explained Kai Reimer-Watts, a volunteer with RISE Waterloo Region who spoke to council this week about the emergency declaration.

“Climate change is real,” Mayor Sandy Shantz acknowledged, noting Woolwich hasn’t been inactive in the battle, pointing to the township’s involvement with Sustainable Waterloo Region, its greening initiative, energy-saving efforts such a converting to LED lighting. Sandy Shantz, Mayor

Emissions of greenhouse gases need to be cut in half within the next 10 to 12 years to avoid the climate change tipping point some experts are predicting, he said.

In Waterloo Region, we’re already seeing warmer, wetter and more extreme weather that’s expected to get worse in the coming decades.

Fellow delegate Andres Fuentes, an international climate communications consultant, noted the planet has already surpassed a one-degree temperature increase and is well on the way to 1.5 degrees, edging closer to the two-degree problem area that’s the target of international agreements such as the Paris accord.

There’s a very limited window to avoid the two-degree change, said Fuentes.

“We have to respond now and urgently.”

Action now is needed to provide a better future for today’s children, added Reimer-Watts.

“If we’re not looking out for the next generation, what are we doing?” he said, noting that changes today will buy us time.

“Intervention now will pay in spades going down the road.”

In declaring a climate emergency, Woolwich joins Kitchener and Wilmot Township in the region, along with the likes of the federal government.

“It’s a growing movement in Canada,” noted Fuentes.

Current greenhouse gas emission targets call for an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. It’s going to take action rather than just words to get there, said Reimer-Watts, who acknowledged the declaration is the first step.

“It is a climate emergency. This is what we’re facing – call it what it is.”

“Climate change is real,” Mayor Sandy Shantz acknowledged, noting Woolwich hasn’t been inactive in the battle, pointing to the township’s involvement with Sustainable Waterloo Region, its greening initiative, energy-saving efforts such a converting to LED lighting.

Adopting a climate budget will mean paying even more attention to the details of the township’s emissions, she added.

The timing of Woolwich’s declaration, and those of other municipalities, along with climate strikes this week – including one scheduled for Waterloo Square Friday – helps give the issue some profile in the midst of a federal election campaign, said Reimer-Watts, noting the global climate strikes are grassroots initiatives carried out by concerned citizens, often young people.

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  1. We were at the festival for the 1st time last week. Do you have any pictures to view of the event for our friends to see to come with us next year. Thanks.

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