Coun. Steve Roddick at council on Dec. 3, 2018. Roddick brought forward a notice of motion for the declaration at council’s June 10 meeting, making June 24 the earliest council could vote on it. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse Coun. Steve Roddick proposes climate change emergency declaration

Council is set to vote on the proposal June 24

Whitehorse could be the next jurisdiction to declare a climate change emergency as early as June 24.

Coun. Steve Roddick brought forward a notice of motion for the declaration at council’s June 10 meeting, making June 24 the earliest members could vote on it.

“We need to acknowledge our climate is in crisis,” he said in an interview following the June 10 meeting.

The motion would declare a climate change emergency “for the purpose of enhancing and accelerating action on our commitment to protect our community, economy, and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change as we advance our strategic actions.”

The motion also includes provisions for the city to establish an internal task force focused on climate change adaptation and identify work that will move forward the implementation of existing plans to address climate change in the 2019/2020 budget. Roddick’s motion also proposes a “carbon budget” for the city’s 2020/2021 spending plan that would outline the carbon emissions of each capital line item and its impact on the city’s efforts to reduce emissions. Finally, there would be continued efforts with the territory and business community to take action through the upcoming Yukon Climate Change, Energy and Green Economy Strategy.

The declaration would be one in a long list of similar documents being adopted by communities across the country. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation became the first — and so far only — government in the Yukon to declare the emergency in May.

Roddick drew attention to the First Nation’s move at the time, but stopped short of calling for a city declaration then, noting at that point he simply wanted to bring attention to the issue.

On June 10 he said he has now taken the time to work with other members of council on wording which he believes reflects the situation and could result in real change.

“To get here, I’ve drafted and circulated multiple versions of this motion and have revised and reworked it substantially in order to integrate the feedback I received from council and administration,” he said.

Roddick added he’s open to looking at any amendments coming from any other council members and has tried to word the motion in a way that will ensure new efforts around climate change can move forward.

He also said climate change action can be incorporated into efforts the city already has underway, thus not having a major impact on the city’s budget.

Roddick went on to state climate change and the response to it should not be a partisan matter.

“While many orders of government and political parties of different stripes have declared or advocated for the declaration of climate change emergencies, the end goal is ultimately the same: to publicly acknowledge that climate change is an urgent threat, and to mobilize citizens and governments to respond appropriately,” he stated in a June 11 email.

Council will discuss the proposed declaration at its June 17 meeting ahead of the June 24 vote.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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