Burlington is now a city with a declared Climate Emergency.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2019



City Council unanimously passed a motion to declare a climate emergency. The notion was brought forward by ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan.

Numerous cities around the world have recently declared climate emergencies in response to findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we have only 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees, beyond which any further increase would significantly worsen the risk to hundreds of millions of people of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty. London (UK), Los Angeles, Vancouver, Halifax, Kingston and Hamilton have each declared climate emergencies recently.

Flooding BSBVC effects in water

A residential basement after the August 2014 flood.

Burlington has already felt the effects of climate change over the past several years; climate matters are currently ranked as the third highest risk on the City’s Enterprise Risk Register, which measures overall risk to the City.

The City is currently updating many of its plans in relation to climate change including the Community Energy Plan (transitioning to the Climate Action Plan), Corporate Energy Management Plan, Storm Water Design Standards and Urban Forest Management Plan. The City has set a goal to be net carbon neutral by 2040 and work towards being a net carbon neutral community.

The climate emergency declaration would increase the city’s ambition on climate change initiatives, including in the community, and provide staff and residents with clarity of purpose regarding Council’s view of the importance of climate change.

Action items from the declaration include:

• That a climate emergency be declared for the purposes of deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, environment and community from climate change; and
• That Council and staff immediately increase the priority of the fight against climate change and apply a climate lens to the plans and actions of the City of Burlington including the Council strategic work plan and future budgets; and
• Staff are directed to bring a report to the June 3, 2019 Committee of the Whole meeting that outlines actions taken to date and includes a critical path for the development of the first City of Burlington Climate Action Plan that will:

The tree was on private property. Should the owners have been required to get permission to cut it down? Is a bylaw needed for this kind of a situation?

The tree was on private property. Should the owners have been required to get permission to cut it down? The city does have a pilot private tree by law for the Roseland community.

1. address the operations of the corporation of the municipality as well as the functioning of the entire community; and

2. include a plan for a thorough and complete consultation with stakeholders and the community; and

3. increase action and ambition for the City’s climate change-related activities; and

4. include performance metrics to track progress and timelines for achieving key deliverables/major milestones, and a strategy to report back publicly on progress.

• Direct the City Manager to bring back the Burlington Climate Action Plan to Council no later than December 2019 for approval.

Climate emergency graphic“Our health, livelihoods and futures are directly linked to the environment”, said Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. “ Flooding, storms, water quality and air quality affect everything and everyone in our community. Real change requires all of us to work together.

“If our goals are to build a prosperous, healthy and green city for the long-term, we need to take serious, tangible action. Passing this declaration is another step in ensuring that we are doing everything we can to stop climate change — this companion motion includes timelines for action, as well as reporting back on initiatives that are already underway at the City of Burlington.”

Nisan Lowville Feb 7 BEST

Councillor Rory Nisan – not doing media interviews these days.

Councillor Rory Nisan, who chose not to be available for an interview, did say in a written statement that: “By declaring a climate emergency, Burlington City Council is recognizing the magnitude of the challenge we face in combatting climate change. But it is only one step. Through the declaration we have requested a comprehensive climate action plan by the end of the year and that plan is where we will begin to make real, practical change for Burlington.”

The Mayor and some members of her council held a media event this morning to explain what the city planned to do with the $5.6 million they got from the federal government recently.

One of the council members drove away from the meeting in a high end pickup truck. I was struck with a dose of envy (it’s a guy thing) and wondering what kind of a statement was being made.

To the best of our knowledge there isn’t a member of council driving an electric vehicle. Full disclosure – I don’t drive one either but then I don’t pull in 100 big ones annually either.

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16 comments to Burlington is now a city with a declared Climate Emergency.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Now that council has declared a Climate Emergency, will council take the next and follow Victoria BC who voted to move to FREE public transit?

  • Ed Caton

    Not sure who was being judged with the pickup comment in the article, but I know of one of the Councillors who does drive one, and he is one of the few truck owners i know who actually uses it for utility and business. The implied personal judgement in your article lessens the author’s credibility.

    Editor’s note:
    Note sure where people are finding the “judgement” in the article. It was more envy – he had a truck and I didn’t.

  • Charles Jones

    I love how both the article and in these comments it’s just assumed that the 2014 flood was due to climate change. You know this how? Your years of climate science training?

  • stan stainton

    We made the right decision last fall. KUDOS Mayor & council.

  • James Thomson

    What budget is the “emergency” funding coming from?

    How much is staff authorized to spend? Studies don’t come cheap.

    No wonder taxes continue to rise at greater than the inflation rate.

  • Bonnie

    I totally agree with the above comments by Penny Hersh. Council should have supported Councillor Benevegna’s motion to rethink the allocation of over five million dollars and put a substantial amount towards Climate Change initiatives. Why would Councillor Nisan not support this motion when he felt strongly enough to introduce his motion to declare a Climate Emergency? Some very strange voting taking place as I watch this current council in action.

  • Bob

    Nothing is for free and what exactly is the right thing?

    1) lining up at Timmy’s for coffee on mass, Starbucks, you name it, all in the name of ?
    2) clearing lots and whacking trees for the elites
    3) knock downs and building houses, fence line to fence line
    4) unfettered Condo development
    5) rib feast, or is it grease fest
    6) waste and litter for the eye to see, take a look behind Metro Food Basics on Fairview
    7) idling cars and delivery trucks, phony bylaw and enforcement
    8) traffic congestion on side streets from commuters cutting across town
    9) phony recycling programs where,most of the trash gets dumped in land-fills
    10) etc,, etc.,
    11) flooded basements, not because of climate change, but probably because of poor city management
    12) building in known flood plains
    13) dumping raw sewage into the oceans -both coast
    14) Saudi oil via tankers – Port of Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax
    15) ineffective green energy plans
    16) running hydro dam generators in reverse to absorb unwanted electrical energy
    17) phony carbon rebate, it’s a tax and are we that dumb

    Problem being, we are not scientists. We are fed pablum from the media on a daily basis,
    Remember there are huge profits is scaring us to death. There’s not one, expert on city council or staff or the peanut gallery commenting, that can claim that they truly know if climate change is the real deal or not.

    I rest my case.

    • Phillip Wooster

      I can attest about your comment about building in a flood plain. In 1979, while I was considering buying a house backing onto Tuck Creek, I had a choice between one north of Spruce on Regal Road and another south of Spruce. I happened to have a chance meeting with a farmer who had owned property at Lakeshore and Pine Cove in the 1950’s. He told me to buy south of Spruce–when I asked why, he told me that north of Spruce was a flood plain. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel turned the area into a lake; he said if there was another such weather event, the same thing would happen. And in 2014, guess where the flooding occurred. WHO KNEW????

  • Lisa Cooper,

    Bwhahaha, ya how’s it going with all the parks and recreation driving around town or parking at(Costco) in their (our taxpayers) pick up trucks.
    So it’s Rory’s initiative is he taking public transit to work? For that matter are any of council using public transit?

  • Judy Christie

    will all of the many new high-rise buildings help with climate emergency?

  • Penny Hersh

    I supported Councillor Benevegna’s Motion and I applaud the other councillors who supported a rethink of the over 5 million dollar federal windfall. If Council had agreed to rethink the allocation of this money and put a substantial amount towards Climate Change Initiatives I would have taken the passing of the Emergency Climate Control Motion as a positive step by Council.

    Time will tell if this was merely a symbolic gesture on the part of Council.

  • Bill Brant

    I feel some of your statements here are pretty unfair towards Councilors. Councilor Nisan clearly has had surgery or significant injury (note his arm in a sling in photos and at meetings) and so “chose not to be available” FOR MEDICAL REASONS. And as for the Councilor driving a truck, I believe he plows snow for his neighbours in the winter and this is why he drives this.
    “What kind of statement is being made” is that he drives a truck. End of statement. Maybe instead of spin, do some fact checking.
    It seems like demonizing anyone in political office is the norm these days, Yes, there are some bad and some good. But, like developers, like doctors, like anyone in any profession, not ALL are bad.
    If they support a climate emergency, they are over reaching. If they do not support a climate emergency they do not care about the environment or the future of our children! let’s wring our hands in horror!
    Lets give them some time to settle in and let you know who they really are before we start placing shame on them, and let’s stop with the spin.

  • Elan

    As I watched the meeting, I noted one councilor did ask why the lean-in towards a climate emergency would not prompt a rethink of the $5.6 MM federal windfall spend toward supporting any efforts to combat this threat. Apparently, the Mayor and three other councilors did not think it a priority to reconsider ‘nice to haves’, like new zambonies at skyway arena, in the face of this apparent ‘grave’ threat to our environment, and passed the original motion as is, for roads etc. I perceive some of the council members are trying here.

  • Jim Gilchrist

    Overheard at the City of Burlington: … “do you think that if we support the Federal Liberal’s environmental agenda, by DECLARING A FULL-FLEDGED CLIMATE EMERGENCY!!!, they will repay us by returning a small percentage of the taxes that they collected from our municipal electorate? We get money to wave in front of the voters, the Federal Liberals look good to their base, and the anti-carbon tax provinces are seen to be the bad guys”. Who cares if the country goes even further into debt – it’s FREE MONEY!!

    • Dave

      Whoa… Missing the point on several items here. People following the Council meeting on Tuesday heard that this is not a partisan political issue, it is a human issue, it is a future generation issue. Further, the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of taking action now to mitigate the problem.

      To not take serious action now will be detrimental to our economy, our health, and the country’s future debt load. This a vote for prosperity for ourselves and future generations, if it is followed by real action.

      Ford just indicated he will “spare no resources” to help the people currently being flooded in cottage country. How much financial burden do you think events like this will add to our province this year, then a few years from now when it happens again. The last event was 6 years ago there, in what was viewed to be a ‘100-year event’. 100-year events occurring every 6 years are going to rack up one heck of a debt load to all levels of government. Do people really think we’re saving money by not taking preventative action? How about the plummeting value of those properties that will follow, and the provincial government’s burden of having to expropriate those homes in a flood plane.

      The purpose of Cities declaring climate emergencies is to take serious action locally, because we are affected directly by the outcomes locally. We can’t always count on higher levels of government taking the action needed. The federal Liberals are no saints. They claim to be climate friendly, while they continue to expand pipelines and tar sands — how can that possibly be rationalized? It makes no sense. Provincial government claims to be developing a made in Ontario solution of its own, yet removed the term Climate Change from the Ministry of Environment. What does that tell you about their true commitment? (Note: not claiming anyone to be the bad-guys here, but why does the provincial government trumpet the evils of the carbon tax, without mentioning the tax rebate to all taxpayers that goes along with it? The carbon tax is designed to result in minimal cost to taxpayers, but significant savings if people switch to purchasing greener options — it’s called price signaling. To leave this out of the discussion is very deceptive.)

      There are no backroom deals or political alliances. The local emergency declaration is about cities/towns and citizens standing up for themselves and their kids and grandkids, doing the right thing, and leading the way on this most critical issue of our time, to protect our health, homes, environment, economy, and financial well-being.

      • Phillip Wooster

        Dave, Canada’s global emissions count for 1.6% of the total. If we reduce our emissions to 0% which will cause economic chaos in Canada, guess what will happen to global emissions. NOTHING! The world’s three largest economies–China, India, and the USA which account for over 50% of global emissions are doing NOTHING! Virtue signalling is expensive and totally non-productive but if it makes you feel good, why not?