About 800 St. John’s residents have signed a petition calling on the City of St. John’s to declare a climate emergency.
Coun. Ian Froude and Coun. Maggie Burton each presented those petitions to council on behalf of the residents at the regular meeting of council Monday evening.
Froude then gave notice that at a future meeting of council — likely within two weeks — he will “bring forward a motion for debate on recognizing climate change as an emergency, and set forward a course of action for the city’s sustainability.”
If council declares a climate emergency, it would recognize climate change as “an urgent area of necessary action,” Froude said.
“What it does is put the required and needed staff attention, as well as a call to action to the public to act to help address this issue,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Froude said declaring a climate emergency would also put that lens on any decisions the city makes.
Those who organized the petition — representatives from the Social Justice Co-operative of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Coalition for a Green New Deal Newfoundland and Labrador — were in the gallery as it was presented to council.
They said they wanted to use the momentum coming off the most recent climate strike to build a broad coalition of not just organizations, but also municipal governments, to work together.
“We’re asking the government to not only declare a climate emergency, but then also act accordingly,” said Rachel Webb Jekanowski of the Social Justice Co-operative.
“Following the most recent climate science that says we have about 11 years or so in order to ameliorate the worst consequences of climate change, we’re asking governments to step up.”
She said the groups would like the city to consult with community members, organizations and scientists about what sorts of actions should be taken.
However, she said actions the city can take now include better funding for public transit, and establishing better pedestrian systems and bikeways. She said such changes “will do a huge amount to reduce carbon emissions.”
Travis Inkpen of the Social Justice Co-operative, and the Coalition for a Green New Deal NL, said the city could also consider electrifying public transit.
Inkpen said there’s a climate emergency declared at the federal level, but the federal government's actions are not reflecting that declaration. He said he doesn’t want to see the same thing happen at the municipal level.
“You can’t declare a climate emergency one day and buy a pipeline the next day, so we want to not only see the city declare an emergency, but actually take meaningful action to address it.”
There is another climate strike planned in St. John’s for Nov. 1.