If there’s one takeaway from any serious discussion on climate change, it’s that we’re all in this together.
On Thursday, September 26, City Hall hosted a Climate Action Plan Roundtable meeting, which brought together representatives from local businesses to discuss climate change on a national level, as well as a local level. The purpose of the meeting is to spread information and engage in conversations leading up to Kingston’s Climate Action Plan, which is set to be released on Earth Day of next year.
The overall goal of the meeting is to find ways of mitigating Kingston emissions as a community, which ties directly to the central Climate Action Plan: a coordinated effort between the City of Kingston and Sustainable Kingston to reduce Kingston’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Don MacIver, Associate with Risk Sciences International and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for work on Climate Change, put the issue in a simple context: “The message has been consistent for 30 years. We’re getting warmer and we’re getting wetter. We can argue about the degree of it in every little sub region across Canada, but those are meaningless arguments. The reality is that it’s getting wetter and warmer and we’re going to have to mitigate to reduce that effect and we’re going to have to adapt to it.”
According to the Climate Action Plan Research Team, since 2000, Kingston’s annual energy consumption has increased by 22%, equalling $599 million every year on energy and in turn releasing 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere. An inventory of this energy consumption is taken every two years, with the next one scheduled to begin before the end of this year. With the global climate changing at a rapid rate and the responsibility resting on every developed nation around the world, the discussion has shifted to not only reducing the damage, but also adapting to the changes that are already happening, including changes in weather and increases in weather-related natural disasters.
How will the proposed Climate Action Plan directly affect Kingston and its residents? “We’re now adjusting to the new climate of today and climate of tomorrow. What that means is you want to have a community that’s much more resilient to extreme weather. What that means is investing in emergency preparedness, emergency response actions that will make a safer community. That’s what makes Kingston more competitive. People want to know that if they come here, they’re safe,” explained MacIver.
Heather Auld, Principal Climate Scientist with Risk Sciences International, described how the conversation on climate change has shifted since the 1970s and 1980s: “It used to be you had to convince people [climate change] was happening. There was a lot more scepticism. Then we went through a period where we only talked about greenhouse gases and we maybe mentioned impacts, and weren’t really allowed to discuss adaptation too much. Now, we have to talk about both; discuss greenhouse gases and how to adapt.”
“We have invited individuals we knew would be working in this field,” said Daniel Shipp, Sustainable Initiatives Coordinator for City of Kingston. “Our first round was to solicit individuals who we know are working in the climate change realm, and then we opened it to any organizations who would be working in the field.”
“Reps from this roundtable are the brightest and finest when it comes to finding solutions.”
The 75 individuals attending the meeting are from across a large spectrum of industries, including the energy and food sectors, transportation, Kingston hospitals, and representatives from the military. There are expected to be between four and 25 individuals from each type of sector. These are what are referred to as “stakeholders.”
These stakeholders will be asked to focus on ways the community can adapt to extreme weather and at the same time reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. The plan will help the community prioritize its actions. The meeting, and the plan the meeting is building, is to help guide and prioritize these initiatives.
“Our community goal is to become Canada’s most sustainable city, and we recognize and use four pillars’ of sustainability to work toward this goal,” said Mayor Mark Gerretsen. “We can all contribute to the environmental pillar by creating the plan, evaluating our greenhouse gas emissions, and working together as a community to reduce them.”
The three remaining pillars in the “Sustainable Community” model are Cultural, Economic, and Social.
Some may wonder how Kingston East measures up to the rest of the City in terms of emissions, but Shipp stressed that no one particular area or demographic is singled out, that we are all in this together as both a regional and global community.
“Development decisions and the use of green space, parkland, employment lands, neighbourhood intensity and energy performance of homes are always a factor affecting transportation and energy costs and emissions, so one could look at a suburb for example, as being a larger source of a community’s overall emissions challenges – combined with the base as a likely a large consumer of energy.”
“We are all responsible for the emissions our community produces, and our planet for that matter.”
Updates concerning the Climate Action Plan and additional information can be found on the City of Kingston website.
By Nick Rayner