Sackville town council has been inspired by the next generation to take action on climate change.
Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion Monday night to declare a climate crisis, making Sackville the latest in a long line of municipalities around the world who have put the issue on the radar as a priority in need of sustained, concrete action.
Coun. Bill Evans brought the motion to the table, saying he was moved by the hundreds of Sackville youth who took to the streets and raised their voices in urgent protest during the Global Day of Action on March 15, urging political leaders to tackle the issues related to the climate emergency.
“These young people demanded that we recognize that we face a climate crisis and we need to make appropriate climate action a priority in Sackville,” said Evans.
The motion – which states that recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Environment Change and Climate Change Canada make it abundantly clear the world faces a climate crisis and that the actions taken by all levels of government to date have been frighteningly inadequate – puts forward a series of actions the town has agreed to take on.
Chief among the actions is the proposed establishment of a roundtable on climate change, comprised of various community stakeholders, with a mandate to provide advice and guidance on climate change initiatives as part of the town’s annual priority planning and budget process.
The town also resolves to:
- acknowledge the climate crisis and help amplify awareness;
- educate and engage the community about the crisis;
- actively lobby other levels of government to act in response to this crisis;
- continue with ongoing efforts and explore further actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change;
- consider climate change during the town’s operational decision-making process;
- encourage the community to come together to raise further awareness of the impacts and suggest related actions at the community and municipal level.
Evans pointed out that the climate crisis, if left unchecked, will be catastrophic.
“The science is in. This is no longer debatable,” he said. “And it’s not good enough to simply no longer deny the reality of climate change.”
As so many of our youth pointed out last month, “the time for waiting, the time for arguing, the time for deliberating, the time for hoping is long past,” said Evans.
“The collective ‘we’ have blown it and, as a result of this inaction, it’s already too late to do it right. That’s why it’s a crisis now. And crises requires dramatic action.”
To preserve life on this planet without further damage, the national and provincial governments would need to start mobilizing significant resources and work in collaboration with other national governments, he said. But he’s not confident that is going to happen anytime soon.
“We have already seen that, left to their own devices, governments are not doing enough, fast enough.”
What is needed is for individuals and municipal governments to lobby these other levels of government to act responsibly, said Evans. And greater community action is also needed toward mitigating the causes and effects of climate change and to accept individual short-term costs for the sake of collective long-term benefits.
He said while the town has taken a number of steps over the years to become more energy efficient and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, “we can and must do more.”
“If our provincial and federal leaders won’t do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, then we will show them by our example and we will pressure them with our lobbying, our marches and our strikes and our votes.”
Coun. Bruce Phinney agreed with Evans but pointed out that governments are not the only ones who should take the blame for inaction.
“It’s not just the politicians that are making the mistake of not recognizing what is going on. We have large companies, organizations, and institutions that need to divest from fossil fuels,” said Phinney, adding they need to be urged to do more to protect the environment.
Coun. Shawn Mesheau said he was pleased he was able to help draft the motion along with Evans and town managers Phil Handrahan and Jamie Burke. He said he wanted to ensure that the declaration was more than just a symbolic gesture and that there were tangible goals the municipality would be able to tackle.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said he too was glad the motion had some “real attainable goals and some sight to it.”
Coun. Andrew Black, who acknowledged he has a lack of faith in humanity in general to do the right thing when it comes to climate change, said it will take strong conviction from “those who want to fight” if there is any real change to be made.
“It will take strong, firm, drastic and disruptive action from all levels of government to make the changes the world needs right now,” said Black.