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King Township declares climate emergency, aims to reduce emissions 45 per cent
July 25, 2019
Sheila Wang

King Township has joined a growing number of Canadian municipalities in declaring a climate emergency.

Council voted 4 to 3 on July 8 to pass a resolution to officially declare a climate emergency for the purpose of deepening King’s commitment to protect the community from the impacts of climate change and to reduce emissions across the township.

Mayor Steve Pellegrini said he introduced the motion based on concerns he received from residents as well as recent extreme weather events in the township.

“The weather pattern is changing,” Pellegrini said. “We make the statement for the staff and the public to bring awareness.”

The decision was made three weeks after the House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada on June 17.

At least 35 Canadian municipalities have declared a climate emergency including Vaughan, Ottawa and Burlington, according to the motion.

During the deliberation, the mayor said some council member expressed concerns over the word “emergency” and its possible implications.

“Climate Emergency is a commonly-accepted nomenclature for such declarations. This term has been used in numerous other municipal bylaws or resolutions,” Pellegrini responded after consulting with the township’s legal department.

“I think by declaring this, it gives a foundation to build on and for actions to take place,” said Bruce Craig, chair of Concerned Citizens of King Township (CCKT).

Despite the split votes on the declaration, councillors reached a consensus on a proposal that was aimed to reduce emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases (GHG) by 45 per cent by 2030 in King Township.

It was 15 per cent more than the reduction target that a staff report recommended.

Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 globally, reaching "net zero" around 2050, according to a special report issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 “It affects everybody in the world. This is something that's truly a global issue and it touches everyone, every nation and every part of the world,” Craig said.

The township has always been a front-runner in addressing climate change, Pellegrini said.

The new municipal office, completed last fall, was built “with sustainability and energy conservation in mind,” he said. The office is equipped with electric vehicle charging stations, a geothermal exchange system and LED lighting.

Last year alone, King converted a total of 2,111 township-owned street light fixtures to LED in order to reduce energy consumption.

In response to the declaration of climate emergency, staff is expected to create a Climate Action Plan for King, focused on mitigation and adaption at the community level.

“Some people would say ‘tiny little King Township, what difference will that make?’ Of course we know every single person, every tiny little actions that any of us takes, make some difference,” Craig said.