A group of local citizens expressed disappointment Monday night after Sackville Town Council stopped short of declaring a climate emergency.
Instead, council passed a unanimous resolution acknowledging that “the world faces a climate crisis.”
Among other things, the resolution also promised that the town will consider climate change when it makes operational decisions; will lobby other levels of government to respond to the climate crisis and will establish a “roundtable on climate change…to provide advice and guidance on climate change initiatives as part of the town’s annual priority planning and budget process.”
To read the resolution, click here.
Sackville resident Laura Reinsborough told council during the public question period that “wording does matter” and that the students who marched to town hall on March 15th specifically asked Sackville to join more than 400 municipalities, including Edmunston and Moncton, in declaring a climate emergency.
Mayor Higham and Councillor Bill Evans responded that council was concerned about the legal implications of declaring an emergency and therefore, settled on the words “climate crisis” instead.
Solidarity and leadership
Reinsborough said it’s important to show solidarity with other municipalities by declaring a climate emergency.
“Using that same strength of wording, does help send that message that we are being serious about this,” she said.
“We know that municipalities in New Brunswick have made that declaration and I think, even just for that headline, it means a lot about the leadership that town council would be showing.”
“I think this is quibbling over semantics,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken. “Every other municipality I’ve seen has declared an emergency and stopped there,” he added. “We are taking further steps than just declaring it, so we are in essence doing more than was really asked for.”
Quinn MacAskill, who helped organize the March 15 march, pointed out that the students had also called on the town to update its 2010 Sustainability Plan in light of the effects of climate change, but that was not included in the resolution that council passed.
“I’m just wondering,” MacAskill asked, “if you would be able to actually create a plan specific to just the environment.”
Mayor Higham responded that, in fact, the Sustainability Plan balances a range of social, economic and environmental issues, but that council felt a more specific “climate lens” is needed in its decision making.
“That’s much more focussed on specific environmental and climate factors,” the mayor said, adding that council wants to work toward developing such a climate lens.
He also said that the climate change roundtable promised in the resolution would be an ongoing committee comprised of a variety of people who could offer advice and guidance on climate change policies and decisions.
‘Right side of history’
When Councillor Bill Evans brought forth the resolution earlier in the meeting, he said he wanted to be able to tell his granddaughter that he did all he could to combat climate change and helped turn things around.
“I want to be on the right side of history,” Evans said. “I don’t want to have to hang my head as the temperatures and sea levels rise inexorably and increasingly frequent and intense flooding and drought and storms displace millions and chaos reigns and have to say to my sweet girl: ‘Well, we just kept on doing what we’d been doing because we liked living that way and it was easier and, well, we’re sorry we ruined your world.'”
To read Evans’s complete statement, click here.
Update: Here are two messages from Laura Reinsborough on Facebook:
“I’m thrilled with this motion and am hopeful that it will qualify Sackville to be listed among those 400+ local governments that have declared a climate emergency. I just submitted the wording of the motion to the International Climate Emergency Forum (the ICEF, which has compiled a database of local governments that have declared climate emergencies) to see if they can confirm that the wording is enough to comply.”
“Here is the response from the ICEF’s Margaret Hender: ‘Since the ICEF sheet explicitly says that the words ‘climate emergency’ should be in the motion text in order to ‘count’, and I follow that same criterion in managing the global map, I think the Sackville motion does not qualify.'”