With the District of Muskoka and the Town of Gravenhurst each having passed a climate emergency resolution promising to lead by example to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), Climate Action Muskoka plans to ask the Town of Huntsville to do the same at its May council meeting.
Lesley Hastie will be speaking to Huntsville Council on behalf of Climate Action Muskoka (CAM). She said given that in 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, gave the world 11 years to act in order to keep global heating to 1.5°C, now, in 2021, “we have less than nine years. Action is needed extremely urgently. This is the ultimate existential issue.”
It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of. “Irrefutable science says we are on track for more catastrophic events due to heating even if we are able to keep average heating to a rise of just 1.5°C. And with current plans and pledges, we are on track for heating of 3–4°C by 2100. This will lead to irreversible tipping points producing irrevocable changes to the planet,” she noted in an email to Doppler, adding that it could lead to flooded cities, intolerable heatwaves, and make entire nations uninhabitable — and impact billions of people. “A four-degree-warmer world is the stuff of nightmares and yet that’s where we’re heading in just decades.”
Municipalities will see their costs rise as a result of climate change, she noted. “Municipalities will bear the economic, social and environmental burden. Failure to address this emergency now, according to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, will cost at least six times more later.”
Locally and across Canada the issue is gaining support with groups like CAM ensuring the focus remains on meeting reduction targets.
The resolutions by the District of Muskoka and Town of Gravenhurst come with a commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, added Hastie. “We believe that the other towns in Muskoka will do the same in the next few weeks in the realisation that it must be done.” They will join another 10,500 towns and cities around the world that have also declared climate change reduction targets.
“Their numbers are growing, as are the targets, as it becomes apparent how changes in climate action plans can be made. For instance, only this week, Germany raised its target to 65 per cent GHG reduction by 2030, from 55 per cent,” she wrote. ”The resolution presented by CAM includes establishing community climate working groups representing the diversity of each municipality. These will use input from experts, and in collaborating with other Muskoka groups will be a valuable and continuing resource in developing climate action plans to meet the targets over the next four decades. These climate action plans will evolve as science develops and new technologies become feasible.”
She said municipalities play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “This is a leadership moment for municipalities; leadership of other municipalities in the region and across Canada, leadership of the Town’s staff in planning ambitious action and adding strong climate-specific language to the strategic plan, and leadership of residents who are being encouraged to cut their own emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, which they can do by following simple suggestions at climateactionmuskoka.org.”
According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Hastie pointed out, municipalities have influence over roughly 50 per cent of GHG emissions in Canada. ”By adopting practices that reduce GHG emissions, municipalities can improve the quality of life of their residents while saving money in operation and energy costs.”
Hastie said CAM has 350 members who receive its weekly e-newsletter, with 450 members in its Facebook group, which people must ask to join. She also said CAM has a steering committee comprised of 20 to 25 members.
The hardest hit by the effects of climate change will be the most vulnerable, noted Hastie. “The issues that became more visible during the pandemic – especially, lack of housing, poverty, justice, racism – are the same issues arising from climate impacts and must be addressed in our solutions. We know it is the most vulnerable who will be hit most by the climate crisis.
“COVID lockdowns have allowed people to see and appreciate the beauty in a simpler, slower lifestyle, to grow their own food, shop locally, and to value human interactions and community well-being, to make do and mend, rather than indulge in frenetic consumerism. These are a path forward to help cut emissions,” she said.
As for those who say climate change is simply a hoax, Hastie noted: “What would one say to those who say COVID-19 is a hoax? What about those who insist the earth is flat? These groups also have their websites to expand and elaborate on their conspiracy theories and deny reality.
“The science is clear, either we address the urgency of the crisis now or planetary tipping points will be reached and then it is game over for humanity. This is not an exaggeration.
“What is important is to support those who are ready and willing to take action in doing what is required. The naysayers have had their way, delaying real action for 30 years now. That is why we are stuck needing to make such steep, ambitious reductions now. These folks will be carried along with what the majority of Canadians want whether they believe in it or not.”
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