Stratford Climate Shoe Strike Sign, Sept 25 - by Anna

By Annemarie Reimer and Anne Carbert

In February, City Council declared a Climate Emergency for Stratford, but since March, the initiative has been stalled, pushed aside by the pandemic response and held back by the challenges of a short-staffed City Hall.  The City’s Energy & Environment Advisory Committee is working to regain momentum for the Climate Emergency Declaration and we in the community have an opportunity to help.

Read on for the background to Stratford’s climate emergency declaration, the E&E Committee’s current recommendations, and how you can contact City Council.

Background: Climate Emergency Declared in February 2020

Stratford City Council declared a climate emergency on February 10th, 2020, after impassioned speeches by community members and students in crowded Council chambers. (See the video on YouTube.) Approval of the declaration was unanimous and Council also stated that in three months, an action plan would be outlined with implementation ideas and target dates and also with the E&E Committee playing a key role in public education.

This motion to declare a climate emergency came before City Council after a citizen petition was presented to the City Clerk at the conclusion of the September 20th, 2019 climate march and rally.  That event was part of unprecedented global climate protests a year ago. Energized by the Fridays For Future movement, local high school students marched from their schools to Market Square with adults and children joining them in a rally and eco-fair where speeches, art installations, information booths, and musical performances all attested to the community’s demand for climate action, locally and globally.

In February 2020, Rachael Stephan (left) and Emily Adam presented to Stratford City Council in favour of declaring a climate emergency

Anne Carbert (left) and Annemarie Reimer also presented to Stratford City Council, February 2020

Excerpt from the Climate Emergency Declaration approved by Stratford City Council on February 10, 2020:

… Whereas recent international research has indicated a need for massive reduction in carbon emissions in the next 10 years to avoid further and devastating economic, ecological, and societal loss;

Whereas the climate in Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, as per Canada’s Changing Climate report; 

Therefore, a climate emergency be declared by the City of Stratford for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our eco systems, and our community from climate change.

Full text of the motion is on the City of Stratford’s website

The E&E Committee organized working groups to investigate ways to implement a local climate emergency declaration. The Committee’s working documents were based on the categories in the greenhouse gas emissions count prepared by Rebecca Garlick, the Perth County Climate Change Coordinator, and submitted to the City staff in December 2019. That GHG report has yet to be discussed by City Council.

Under the leadership of Emily Chandler and Councillor Jo-Dee Burbach, Chair and Vice Chair of the E&E Committee, the working groups met this past January, February, and March to define the main areas in which local climate action was needed. Six broad issues were identified: infrastructure, trees, staffing, waste reduction, education, and alternative transportation. In addition, Emily Chandler, Jo-Dee Burbach and Sammie Orr, student member of the E&E committee, also participated in citizen working groups convened earlier this year to help set the stage for a climate action implementation plan.

Geographic Emissions, Perth County (click for larger image)
from Rebecca Garlick, Perth County Climate Change Coordinator, Sept 2020

Current Update: Pandemic Impact, E&E Recommendations, and Advocacy

Then the pandemic happened. The COVID-19 response required that the City of Stratford re-prioritize its projects. The climate emergency declaration ended up on the list of paused projects for a few months and due to staff layoffs as well as gathering restrictions, E&E Committee meetings were cancelled. Not until September 3rd could the E&E Committee meet again.

Said Chandler, “There is no more pressing issue than that of climate change. While the pandemic has put certain things on hold, it has also highlighted our disastrous relationship with nature. We simply cannot wait for action.”

“There is no more pressing issue than that of climate change. While the pandemic has put certain things on hold, it has also highlighted our disastrous relationship with nature. We simply cannot wait for action.” ~ Emily Chandler, Chair, Energy & Environment Advisory Committee

The Committee approved a motion to recommend that “Council consider additional staff resources, in a broader Environmental Coordinator type role, to be responsible for implementation of the Climate Action Plan.”

City staff will prepare follow-up reports to the Climate Emergency Declaration for consideration by City Council on November 23rd. Rebecca Garlick, the Perth County Climate Change Coordinator, is expected to present her report on the greenhouse gas emissions count for Stratford at the same meeting.

There is much that we can do locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build on initiatives the City of Stratford has undertaken to date that directly and indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has stated that “Municipalities are on the front lines of climate change.” Extreme weather impacts people where they live and local initiatives and infrastructure decisions can mitigate emissions for a more sustainable future and adapt to the weather and climate changes we can expect locally.

Climate Momentum is encouraging citizens to write to City Council members in support of the E&E Advisory Committee recommendation for additional staff to ensure implementation of local climate action initiatives. You can email the Mayor and all Councillors at once using this form on the City’s website: Email City Council

What are some of the City of Stratford’s climate initiatives to date?

The list of initiatives the City of Stratford has undertaken to date that directly and indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes projects such as green bin diversion of organic waste, recycling programs, facilities upgrades including LED lighting and HVAC systems, bike racks and bike lanes, tree planting and tree protection,  Avon River shoreline improvements, and replacement of older transit buses.

Also, this past June, Council passed a private tree preservation by-law that is intended to preserve trees throughout the City of Stratford by regulating the removal of trees that measure 30 centimetres in diameter or more. Property owners must apply for a permit and submit documents or risk a fine from $500 to $100,000.

More ambitious action will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly by 2030 and make plans to be carbon neutral by 2050 or earlier.

What does the climate emergency declaration mean to you?

How can we take the climate crisis seriously in our on lives? The declaration is an acknowledgement of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the responsibility of our community to do its part. We will need to build more awareness in our families and community networks and contribute to our city’s climate action plan.

In addition to writing to City Council as encouraged above, you might:

> Learn more about climate change. The Climate Change Crash Course by Toronto’s Climate Pledge Collective and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s Global Weirding video series offer bite-size information on this big topic.

> Join with others! Talk about climate change with your family and friends and watch our Event page for our next Momentum Mixer to meet eco-minded folks of all ages.

> Read about projects and people in our own area that are making a difference, like the launch of our local Tree Trust, the energy efficient Dufferin arena, naturalzing and re-wilding, annual tree planting, and local climate champions.

> Join one of the new local working groups for climate action and social justice

> Learn about some of the solutions for cities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

> Estimate the carbon impact of your household using Project Neutral’s carbon calculator and make daily choices that support low-carbon living as the “new normal.”

 

Go to Video: Presentation by students Rachael Stephan and Emily Adam to Stratford City Council discussion of the motion for a climate emergency declaration.