Council declared Niagara-on-the-Lake to be in a state of climate emergency Monday, after hearing from two teens and Coun. Norm Arsenault that it’s a way to promote change.
Hazel Norris, a Grade 8 student at St. Michael Catholic School, told council the declaration would be the “beginning of a more economically-friendly future.”
Without the effort, she said, “no progress will be made.”
Her friend Molly Shara, with whom she has been protesting climate change, said declaring a climate emergency will make people think about their daily lives.
It is a starting point for change, she added, speaking of the importance of an improved public transportation system and a ban of single use plastics as places to start.
“The world is a scary place,” said Norris, referring to rising water levels, the amount of plastics in the oceans, and increasing numbers of droughts, floods, and polar ice melting.
Shara suggested bringing reusable cups to cafes, going without straws and refraining from using plastic bags. “It’s time to act now,” she said.
Arsenault made a motion to declare NOTL in a climate emergency, acknowledging global warming exists and committing to do what can be done at the local level.
He also wanted an environmental committee of nine members — he and Coun. Gary Burroughs have volunteered — to provide advice to council with regards to sustainability and legislation, and suggestions to make NOTL carbon-neutral.
Although there was some concern voiced about using the word “emergency,” which suggests urgent action should be taken.
Some of the Town’s issues — dumping water, Town diesel vehicles, an increase in the use of electricity, some farming practices and sewers that need to be repaired, were mentioned by Coun. Erwin Wiens as issues that should be addressed, without the budget to do so, if an emergency is declared.
A “climate emergency” is mostly symbolic, Arsenault said. “It doesn’t mean the world is going to fall down around us today.”
It wouldn’t mean, for example, stopping the use of diesel vehicles, he said, but “we have to start somewhere.”
It’s a term that’s used widely, he added, as a way to start reducing the Town’s footprint.
Councillors applauded Arsenault’s efforts and his motions, with those opposed supporting the formation of an environmental committee but resisting referring to a state of emergency.