Councils to be asked to declare a climate emergency

The Essex Region Conservation Authority has issued a flood warning until Saturday. Apr 11, 2019. (Photo courtesy of ERCA)

When asked if Windsor-Essex is in the midst of a climate emergency right now, Windsor’s environment and sustainability coordinator is clear.

“I would say so, yes,” said Averil Parent.

Parent researches ways the City of Windsor can best address climate change within the community, whether that is through public outreach, finding funding for projects, or advising city staff making recommendations on policy. At the moment, she is working with local environmentalists on a Windsor Essex County Climate Emergency Declaration.

The city is currently working on a climate adaptation plan, but Parent said recent flooding along the shores of Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River makes it evident the region needs to better prepare for what climate change will bring.

Cots are lined up at the Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham, set up as an evacuation centre for those displaced by flooding on February 23, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

“The climate that we’re actually seeing today is already surpassing the climate projections that we’ve received,” said Parent. “The City of Windsor is feeling the impact of climate change through the various emergencies that we’ve had.”

This past summer, climate emergencies were declared in several Ontario cities, including both Sarnia and Chatham-Kent.

Municipalities across the province suffered significant flooding, including Windsor-Essex, and communities around the world are grappling with their own climate challenges by adopting commitments to mitigate the damage and plan.

Chatham-Kent municipal councillor Trevor Thompson was the leading force behind the declaration in his community, and back in July, he told he could see the evidence of climate change daily.

Before his council passed it, Thompson admitted the declaration could mean many things.

“It could be — a meaningless declaration that nobody puts any weight behind, or it could really be a document that we look at and say, ‘with every decision we make, how are we making our community more sustainable and more resilient,” he said.

Parent is adamant any declaration made here will inform future policy and planning.

“Basically setting priorities,” she said. “And hopefully speeding up the timelines.”

A proposed declaration is expected to come up Thursday’s environment committee meeting at the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant, and Parent said it could be before city and county council in November.