Whitehorse Daily Star

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ACTION POSTPONED – Members of the public listen to debate Monday evening on city councillor Steve Roddick’s motion on combatting climate change.

Climate change motion put off until September

Debate over the motion to have city council declare a climate change emergency was substantial at Monday evening’s meeting, but the matter was deferred until September.

By Chuck Tobin on June 25, 2019

Debate over the motion to have city council declare a climate change emergency was substantial at Monday evening’s meeting, but the matter was deferred until September.

Some members of council are concerned about what such a declaration would mean for the bottom line, and about its impact on Whitehorse taxpayers and existing services if the city became bound by the commitments of an emergency declaration.

Some argued Whitehorse is already a leader among municipalities in Canada when it comes to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Council ultimately decided in favour of a motion from Coun. Dan Boyd to defer the vote.

The purpose is to give city administration time to provide more insight into the impact of an emergency declaration.

“I want to understand the implications of what we are proposing,” Boyd said.

The discussion went on for nearly an hour and a half in front of an audience that filled the council chambers to capacity, and then some.

There were 70 or more members of the public on hand, ranging from seniors to parents with infants and toddlers.

Coun. Steve Roddick proposed the motion for an emergency declaration earlier this month.

In his opening remarks to begin the discussion Monday evening, he emphasized the motion was focused on recognizing the impacts climate change is already having on the city and how to deal with them.

He said it’s about ensuring the quality of life residents enjoy now continues on for future generations.

“We have a responsibility to our city and its citizens to recognize the profound effects that climate change will have on future generations, and show even more leadership in our efforts to respond to this threat,” Roddick said.

All seven members of city council spoke to the issue. It became mired in legislative procedure with a substantial amendment to Roddick’s motion proposed by Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, and then Boyd’s request to defer.

All seven said climate change is real.

Both Curteanu and Mayor Dan Curtis said Whitehorse is already a municipal leader in Canada when it comes to reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

Canada produces a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale, and Whitehorse produces a tiny fraction of the country’s emissions, Curteanu argued.

Based on those numbers, she told her colleagues, she didn’t think it was prudent for the city to declare an emergency.

Curteanu’s proposed amendment calls on the city to urge Canada to encourage world leaders to work together to do more.

It encourages Canada to assist Third World countries and other large producers of GHGs to meet their Paris Agreement targets.

The amendment calls on Canada to provide local governments with more power and resources to continue their battle against climate change.

There was general agreement around the table that such a lengthy amendment would require time to study.

In deferring the matter to September, council has asked administration to provide an assessment of how both Roddick’s and Curteanu’s proposals would affect the city.

Coun. Samson Hartland said he knows climate change is real and has for many years.

As a father of three, his family does what it can on their small hobby farm to ensure they minimize their footprint on the environment, he said. And he thanked Roddick for bringing forward his motion.

But he also questioned the use of the word emergency.

Hartland said the lack of affordable housing in the city is in a state of emergency, citing a bleak outlook for creating more availability in the foreseeable future.

The councillor said he could not send a message that the city is in the same state of emergency with it efforts to fight climate change.

As it was with Curtis and Curteanu, Hartland said he would argue the city is already a municipal leader in taking steps to reduce its impact on the environment.

Roddick’s motion calls upon the city to enhance and accelerate its commitment to protect Whitehorse from the impact of climate change.

It calls for the inclusion of a carbon budget in the city’s annual financial budget that would identify “carbon emissions associated with each capital budget line item and the total relative impact of the capital budget on the city’s emission reduction goals.”

Both councillors Jan Stick and Laura Cabbot expressed outright support for Roddick’s motion. Stick said she also needed more time to look at the proposed amendment by Curteanu.

Like others on council, she said she has not seen it in writing, and it appears to be quite substantial.

Cabbot said she would agree with more time, but would like to have administration’s review of Roddick’s motion and Curteanu’s proposed amendment before city council’s annual three-week break in August.

City manager Linda Rapp told council it would take some effort by city staff to provide an assessment of the two proposals and the impact they would have.

It’s already into vacation season for staff, and it would be difficult to complete the work prior to the August break, she indicated.

Cabbot suggested Roddick’s motion does not call for a mammoth and burdensome shift in the way the city makes decisions.

There is ample evidence of the destructive force of climate change, and plenty of evidence its impact is greater and occurring faster in Canada and in the North particularly, she said.

Cabbot said the good news is everybody can do something to counter global warming by cutting carbon emissions. Municipalities are on the front line as they provide the services, they operate the key infrastructure, she added.

“We are being asked and we are being urged to do more by our citizens, and we are being asked to do more now,” she said.

Cabbot said there are many cities in Canada that are greener than Whitehorse, and are doing everything to minimize their impact on the environment.

As the evening ended with the vote to defer the discussion to September, council chambers quickly emptied of the many who where there to hear the debate, including Erica Mah.

Mah was among a handful of delegates who appeared before city council June 17 to impress upon city council how citizens are looking for leadership to combat climate change.

In a brief interview, she said she was not disappointed by the deferral.

“I think it shows a real commitment to find common ground,” Mah said.

Roddick said he too was OK with the deferral, as it will give members of city council more time to have frank and open discussions with each other before the matter comes back in September.

Nor was he bothered by the suggestion from Curtis that it was standing-room-only Monday night because somebody had lobbied for a large turnout.

Roddick said he doesn’t see anything wrong with engaging the citizens of Whitehorse, adding he had posted on FaceBook asking people to come out.

There are people in the city who have something to say, and he wants to amplify their voices, he said.

Around the question of the cost to create a greater effort by Whitehorse to reduce carbon emissions, the councillor said he wanted to know what the cost would be if they didn’t.

Comments (17)

Up 6 Down 17

Michael Storm on Jun 28, 2019 at 3:29 pm

With this heat wave and lightening strikes and poor preparations for wildfires there may be no city by then.

Up 14 Down 5

Wilf on Jun 27, 2019 at 6:21 pm

The big issue is what is the problem with our climate and define it for us in the COW? How do you do something about a problem when you do not know what it is. Our climate does change but who says it's bad for us?

Up 5 Down 13

Wilf Carter on Jun 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm

To help our atmosphere which would have a positive affect on our climate, the city should have put out an energy bank on top of the new building using small wind mills and more modern solar planets.

Up 20 Down 5

Wilf Carter on Jun 27, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Mr Rhein - Councillor Curtenanu listens, asks questions to learn about the subject, gets advice from people in the know. Not like you who just talks and has no substance. Telling residents of Whitehorse what you see as the climate change in our City? Also tell us of your knowledge in dendrology and areas of study that effects our climate in our atmosphere?

Up 37 Down 7

Whitehorse Richard on Jun 27, 2019 at 9:36 am

Why is Roddick even introducing this climate emergency idea to city hall? He is on sabbatical, but works for the Climate Change office at Yukon Government (YG). Is this not a conflict of interest?

A few months ago Roddick was strongly supporting putting a rock quarry in the middle of Whitehorse next to residential. This was after several doctors presented both in writing and verbally the health issues for children and the elderly being close quarry operations. Turns out the fine particles from quarry grinding are like asbestos and once in your lungs, never leave. Roddick was arguing that the city could save a few bucks on gravel transport if the quarry was in town vs. safely outside of town.

Councillor Roddick is supposed to be the most educated on City Council with a Master’s degree. Oh wait, Bachelor degree in Political Science, and Masters degree in Policy. Not a lot of hard sciences in those degrees are there Councillor? Roddick what’s your highest math course, pre-algebra? Have you ever taken any classes in Economics or Finance? What hard sciences did you study at University?

For Councillor Cabbot, you are brilliant in discussing legal issues on Council, so I am very confused why you are support Roddick’s proposal on “Emergency Climate Change.” You need to change your bio at City Hall if you are going to go down this rabbit hole. You need to remove “Laura’s focus over the next three years is to ensure that living in Whitehorse is affordable for our residents….”

California went down this rabbit hole as did the Republic of Germany. Ironically they both accomplished the same results. California’s energy prices doubled in cost as did Germany. They both opted to go with wind and solar, which only produces between energy between 17 and 30 percent of the time, and that is down south not the North. Germany actually shut down many of their nuclear reactors for wind and solar.

Last year Germany had similar weather to ours this year, cloudy, rainy, and no wind. Germany backfilled this low production in solar and wind energy with coal, and now their carbon emission exceed what they had before going down the rabbit hole. They are adding more carbon to the environment before they began their green energy efforts.

I am aware Old Crow is installing a solar farm. Yes, congratulations they now have solar energy when they least need energy, during the summer at noon. They don’t have a way to store the energy when they need it most. Batteries don’t do the job and are cost prohibitive.
Maybe in the future they can produce hydrogen with electrolysis using their solar farm? Quebec has invested millions in 50 government hydrogen vehicles and one hydrogen fueling station that uses electrolysis. It is supposed to give live this year.

Most of the Yukon has a sub-arctic climate. It gets cold here, and that is why Yukon Energy is focused on reliable 24 hour production energy using LNG along with our existing hydro dams. They don’t want people huddling in the Canada Game Centre as an emergency shelter when the power goes out in the dead of winter.

For our new Council members, you replaced people who were creating financial hardship for our citizens with stupid spending at City Hall. The mayor got more votes against him than for him in the last election. He only won because of a split vote.

Focus on keeping our cost of living down in Whitehorse, your area of responsibility. Focus on improving existing city services, not adding more work to city hall that will make people’s lives worse. Reduce the costs at city hall, pay off the existing debt from your tax and spend predecessors. Save for the future so when implementable reliable green technologies arrive that will work in sub-arctic environments you can purchase them without having to raise taxes.

Up 22 Down 10

Wilf on Jun 27, 2019 at 3:24 am

July 1 our climate problems will be solved because that's when Trudeau and Larry's carbon gas tax kicks in. We were all told we will get all our tax money back but that's not true either.

Up 11 Down 11

Wilf on Jun 27, 2019 at 3:22 am

Who knows what climate change is and why it changes? Please explain to us. How many have studied anything about our atmosphere?

Up 6 Down 29

Werner Rhein on Jun 26, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Does the result of last Monday's Major and Councillors meeting of June 24, 2019, really shows us the capacities of some of our Councillors and the Major how to act to an emergency?
Councillor Jocelyn Curtenanu tried to educate us what an emergency is and that the Climate Crisis we are experiencing now is not an emergency. Hhhmm, what kind of experience does she have to tell us that?

It seems to me she has very little experience in what is actually going on with climate change. She is using the same old and tired out arguments as the climate change deniers have used for decades.
If China, the biggest polluter on this earth, is doing nothing, then we don’t have to do anything either.

The problem is the numbers in use for that argument are absolutely wrong.
Yes, China is the biggest polluter as a single country. But China is a large country and has the biggest number of the citizens by country and with that will do a lot of pollution.
So if we look at it as we should and calculate the pollution by capita, China is on place 52. But China is also number one in implementing green CO2 free technology to produce energy. It has the biggest number of electric vehicles per capita.

Canada is on place 14, as a polluter, just a bit above the US, which is on place 13. But where are the implementation of green energy technology?
Now we go a bit more into the details of what Councillor Curtenanu told as wrong.
Yes, The Yukon has a very small footprint in GHG emission, compared to the other provinces and territories. But again, when we look at it per capita we are on top.

This is where the “Emergency” comes in. Not every Emergency is an Emergency after the accident is happening. Some Emergencies we see coming and we can mitigate the effect of such an emergency by taking preventative measures way ahead before it is too late.

Some of Major and Council are so concerned about the cost of such preventative measures.
How concerned are they about the cost of the real damage caused by climate change, as no ice bridge in Dawson City anymore. Or I hope not, that Whitehorse becomes the next Fort Mac Murray.

Any Dollars installed on fossil-free energy technology are also Dollars saved on environmental damage was done though climate change.

Seeing this and doing that kind of calculation would show real leadership.

Up 24 Down 4

Yukon Eddie on Jun 26, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Al: Best comment on this fiasco I have heard in a long time. Thanks for speaking out - the truth.

Up 37 Down 6

Brian on Jun 26, 2019 at 6:08 am

This is why nothing gets done. Whole bunch of ego patting on the guy who thought standing up and waving a flag was gonna make him a hero.
Facebook, as if people still use that, you're all sheep. Goes to show how easily influenced urbanites are.

Up 43 Down 9

Al on Jun 25, 2019 at 10:43 pm

...and so it continues. The fear being brought to bear on all of us by those that believe we are doomed as the sky falls upon us.
I am not going to rant on about climate change - because it is a non starter as an event. It is not catastrophic. How about we call what is occurring as our current climate challenges.

The climate is continually evolving, and guess what - it will continue to do so far, far into the future as it has done for past millennium. The challenge we have before is "how do we adapt to the challenge of the climate as it evolves?". We will always experience cyclical events, where some years (even decades) we have what appears to be more hurricanes and cyclones then before, sometimes colder winters, extreme heat waves, etc. What we need to focus on is the reality and not conjure some evil that we has been besot upon the world that is affecting in some extreme way how the climate has evolved differently then from the past. The Earth has gone through many transitional events since it's formation - ice ages (many of them far too numerous to even count), volcanic eruptions, heat waves, forest fires the likes by today's standard would boggle the mind, the ice caps freezing over and then thawing. The seas rising and falling. The important thing is not to cast dark shadows of blame but rather except what we are unable to change - the evolution of our climate as it unfolds. That is why we should focus on adaptation as did our ancestors over thousands of years and all the living creatures before humans even populated the our world.

So let's not get tied up in silliness of increasing taxes to ward off the evil empire and instill fear into folks that the sky is falling in on us. That is the stuff for science fiction TV shows and the theater.

Up 3 Down 41

Gone, Gone, Gone... on Jun 25, 2019 at 9:39 pm

So whilst all First Nations and other elected officials of the Yukon are in Dawson planning for the future, the CoW is taking the summer off.
Just wondering, who had this bright idea to defer on Climate Change until September?

This council should be held accountable for their lack of commitment and clarity of purpose.

Up 18 Down 14

Michael Storm on Jun 25, 2019 at 7:11 pm

Wow, this may seem disappointing but it's a grown up response to the original motion.
What may happen is that council has to seriously consider all bylaw legislation which effects climate change and the environment. And of course this may ensure that the city actually protects environmentally sensitive areas and does not give them away to developers or motorized groups.

Think we should consider everything and get this right.

Up 29 Down 7

Wilf on Jun 25, 2019 at 5:31 pm

What is climate change and how is it an emergency in Whitehorse?

Up 16 Down 3

no party politics please on Jun 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm

Hard to believe Stick and Roddick seeing eye to eye on this (or any) topic.

Up 44 Down 4

joe on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:43 pm

Now that you've put that nonsense aside, get back to work and do your job, there are potholes to fix.

Up 3 Down 43

Unbelieveable on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Glad the climate can wait whilst the Cow takes the summer off.
What a crock.....no urgency here. Only when the council decides it has imminent "business" do they jump into action.

Everyone of you should be ashamed. Tell this to the next generation...how your inaction was all over the ability to take a vacation in the Summer of 2019.

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