By Anne Carbert

At its February 10th meeting, Stratford City Council passed a climate emergency declaration as well as an additional motion to set 2030 and 2050 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and report back to the City’s Infrastructure, Transportation and Safety Committee with those targets within three months.

Council also approved a motion “that a long term corporate and community strategy to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, including incentive programs for green initiatives, be referred to the 2021 budget.”

Supporters of all ages sat through a long Council agenda waiting for the climate emergency item and broke out in applause when the motions passed unanimously.

Four speakers urged Council to approve the declaration and take strong action towards implementation of a climate action plan for Stratford.

Rachael Stephan (left) and Emily Adam present to Stratford City Council

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.

Annemarie Reimer had submitted the initial climate emergency petition to Council last September which resulted in the declaration drafted by City staff for Council’s consideration on February 10th. In her presentation, Annemarie urged Council to view all future plans and policies through a climate lens and emphasized how municipalities can effectively lead climate action.

Presenting along with Annemarie, Anne Carbert suggested that Council could strengthen the declaration by adding 2030 and 2050 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and by locating responsibility for climate action strategies with the City’s Infrastructure Transportation and Safety Committee.

Anne Carbert (left) and Annemarie Reimer present to Stratford City Council

High school students Rachael Stephan and Emily Adam made a very powerful presentation highlighting the reality of the climate crisis, local impacts, and the need to follow-up a climate emergency declaration with an implementation plan.

Emily informed Councillors and the public in the gallery that “Many effects of climate change will have a direct impact on Stratford with many more having indirect aspects. … It is predicted that in Stratford the number of days above 30 degrees Celsius will increase by 17.3 days from 2021 to 2025 according to” She also identified other local impacts such as flooding, respiratory health issues, decreased agricultural production, and risks of food insecurity.

Rachael Stephan and Emily Adam

Rachael encouraged implementation action in areas such as transportation, single use plastics, the health of the river and local watershed, and building efficiency. She noted that the online youth-initiated petition for declaring a climate emergency in Stratford had over 900 signatures and there is a “growing eco-conscious culture in Stratford” and awareness of “green living.”

The students stressed the importance of action following a climate emergency declaration: “To be meaningful and effective a declaration must be followed with action. Change does not come from the declaration itself but from what we choose to do with it and how we incorporate it into our decision-making process.”

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

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.

As first steps, 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 energy efficient Dufferin arena, naturalzing and re-wilding, annual tree planting, and local climate champions.

> 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.”