School strike for climate demonstration in Zaberg. (Photo from Max Pixel)

Climate change emergency declaration possible for Windsor

Depending on how council votes, a climate change emergency could soon be declared in the city of Windsor.

The decision will come up during a council meeting on November 18.

According to Ward 9 Councillor Kieran McKenzie, the recommendation to declare a climate emergency came from the Windsor Essex County Environment Committee, a group made up of both city and county councillors as well as citizens.

The committee identified declaring a climate change emergency as a top priority soon after it was formed and worked in collaboration with the University of Windsor law school to create the document and the specific language.

McKenzie said one of the main priorities was to make a climate change declaration that addresses the unique and different issues that both the city and the county face.

“We wanted to create a document and a declaration that both acknowledges the urgency to address the impact of climate change in our region but one that was open-ended enough to be feasible and passed in both the city of Windsor and in the county as well,” explained McKenzie. “We didn’t want the document itself, because of its language, to be limiting to the point where one or the other jurisdiction wouldn’t be able to move forward with it because of some specific language that wasn’t applicable to them.”

According to McKenzie, the point of the declaration is to acknowledge that there is a climate change emergency happening across the globe, and that change is having an impact in the Windsor-Essex area. If approved, the climate change emergency would be factored into future planning and service delivery decisions.

“It’s asking for, at least at the city of Windsor level, for us to develop public policy measures that will specifically address those impacts,” McKenzie said.

If the climate change emergency declaration is approved, McKenzie hopes that any future decisions will also consider what impacts it will have on the environment and the effects of climate change.

“Moving forward if we do decide that this is a priority and we pass it at a council level we’ll likely see in our council reports a climate change adaptability section in these reports going forward,” he explained. “Whatever it is that we’re considering, what will be the impacts from a climate change perspective? That’s going to be a really important change.”

Several Ontario cities have already declared a climate change emergency including Sarnia in June and Chatham in July.

As for costs associated with declaring an emergency, McKenzie said he believes that the investments made to help Windsor adapt to the impacts of climate change will save money in the long run.

“In terms of the question of whether or not it’s affordable for us to adopt specific measures to address climate change, the really basic answer that I offer to people is that we can’t afford not to address these issues,” he said. “You look at the impacts of that flooding disaster that we had just a couple of years ago and the one prior to that. Millions and millions of dollars was the economic impact of two storms. If we don’t start to make investments to address these issues it’s not sustainable. “