Urgent and emergent: Port Moody latest city to declare climate change an emergency

Similar declarations have been made in nearly 600 jurisdictions world-wide, all in an attempt to recognize and tackle the issue of climate change.

PORT MOODY (NEWS 1130) – Port Moody is the latest city to declare a climate change emergency.

Similar declarations have been made in nearly 600 jurisdictions world-wide, all in an attempt to recognize and tackle the urgency of the issue.

As oceans rise and weather patterns become more unpredictable, more cities are following suit. It’s estimated about 30 per cent of Canadians now live within an area where such a declaration has been made, according to the Climate Emergency Declaration group.

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Cities are able to set their own steps to reduce emissions. In Port Moody, the city will update greenhouse gas emission targets to be in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Its plan also includes having 90 per cent of all new residents live within an easy walk of “daily needs,” having 40 per cent of trips made by walking, biking, or transit by 2030, and also has a focus on zero emissions vehicles. The city hopes to have half of all cars driven on its roads be zero emissions vehicles by that year.

Port Moody has committed to lobbying the provincial and federal governments to act with the same level of urgency, and is even asking for a diversion of subsidies from fossil fuel companies and transition training for people working in oil and gas.

The cities of Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, and even Kingston, Ontario, have already declared their own climate emergencies. Whitehorse is currently looking at the same.

Other actions in Port Moody’s declaration include aiming to have all new and replacement heating and hot water systems produce zero emissions by 2025, and reducing the carbon content of new construction projects by 40 per cent by 2030.

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‘We abandoned the notion of urban sprawl’

Acting Mayor Meghan Lahti and Councillor Amy Lubik brought the recommendation — which passed unanimously at Tuesday night’s council meeting — forward.

Lahti says focusing on making Port Moody more walkable is a necessary shift away from the car-centric, sprawling approach that has shaped suburban planning in the past.

“We abandoned the notion of urban sprawl,” she says.

She notes in the last 10 to 15 years, the city has concentrated development in areas with existing transit and infrastructure.

“We made a concerted effort not to build anywhere outside of the inlet centre and we’re going to continue with that vision,” she says.

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Lahti says the introduction of two new SkyTrain stations presents an opportunity to create “livable, compact, communities” so that future residents can live within walking distance of transit, as well as the shops and services that they need.

“We basically have 11 years to get this right, and if we don’t, if everybody doesn’t get on board and start making some commitments around these issues we will be facing catastrophic certainty,” Lahti says.

Successes in fighting climate change

Meantime, Canada’s senior climatologist says cities and local governments appear to be leading the charge on tackling climate change.

“Most of the success that we have in combatting climate change — the threat of it — and it’s been called the most important environmental issue that human-kind is ever going to face, is going to fall to local levels,” Environment and Climate Change Canada Senior Climatologist David Phillips explains.

He says people can’t expect the federal or provincial governments to “bail us out every time Mother Nature misbehaves,” and adds the success we’ve seen so far will be more effective at a local level.

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“From homeowners, neighbourhoods, individuals — and I don’t think individuals are doing enough,” Phillips says, adding he believes many people are too reliant on insurers or cities when something happens.

He highlights the importance of individual people taking ownership of the current situation, and calls for people to be part of the solution going forward.

“In fact, in Canada, I mean, my gosh — we’re probably the lowest population density in the world, but 85 per cent of us live in communities over 10,000 people,” Phillips explains. “It’s where we … assemble together, and that’s where we’re going to have to take action on it.”

He says the City of Port Moody is joining not just other communities across the country, but around the world, who feel the solution to climate change starts “at home.”

However, he notes the importance of taking action, and not just taking part in a symbolic gesture like signing a declaration.

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“My sense is that I think Port Moody has done a great job in looking at the mitigation side of it, cutting back on fossil fuels, encouraging that,” he tells NEWS 1130, adding he was most impressed with the city’s focus on more vulnerable communities.

“The lower income peoples, the Indigenous communities, and trying to help them to understand that this is, in fact, a threat, a crisis, an emergency, that affects all people.”