Coun. Steve Roddick discussing deeming climate change an emergency during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on June 17. Two climate change motions will come back to council on Sept. 23 after the issue was set aside for the summer. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse council set to revisit climate change emergency declaration

Council to vote on climate change motions Sept. 23

The city of Whitehorse is set to revisit the idea of declaring a climate change emergency on Sept. 23.

That’s when two climate change motions will come back to council for a vote after the city pressed the pause button on the issue over the summer.

In June, council voted to defer both Coun. Steve Roddick’s motion to have the city declare a climate change emergency as well as Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu’s motion to instead urge the federal government to take action on climate change as the city also pursues its own initiatives on the matter.

Reports on both motions were presented to council Sept. 16 by acting planning and sustainability manager Glenda Koh with manager of legislative services Catherine Constable also on-hand to outline the process for the votes.

No recommendations were provided. Rather there was an analysis of each option with Constable explaining members would first vote on Curteanu’s motion as it had originally came forward as an amendment to Roddick’s.

If Curteanu’s motion is defeated then council will consider Roddick’s motion.

If both motions are defeated and a member of council wants to pursue the issue further, a new notice of motion would then have to come forward at a future council meeting.

Under Roddick’s call, administration would be directed to enhance the city’s response to the impacts of climate change by establishing an internal task force focused on adaptation and actions to accelerate the implementation of already-existing climate plans.

A “carbon budget” identifying emissions coming from capital projects and purchases could also be produced.

City staff would also explore collaborative efforts as part of the upcoming Yukon Climate Change, Energy and Green Economy Strategy. A draft strategy is expected to be released later this fall.

Meanwhile, Curteanu’s motion calls instead for work by the federal government with other countries to address climate change. It also outlined action for the city including incorporating environmental stewardship into operations and encouraging residents to do their part.

Curteanu brought her motion forward after taking issue with using the word emergency.

“I think of an emergency as an event that happens suddenly, quickly and often unexpectedly; that is immediately and extensively destructive, seriously endangering lives and/or properties,” she explained when she put her motion forward in June, though she added there’s no question climate change is a critical issue.

The reports presented Sept. 16 on each motion outlined potential costs associated with the actions that could come from each.

Creating the internal task force proposed by Roddick, for example, is estimated at $20,000 in administrative support, staff time and more.

Hiring a climate change specialist to coordinate a corporate city response, a potential action identified out of both motions, could cost a minimum of $115,000 annually.

While the city is hiring for a position that will focus on energy reduction thanks to a two-year funding agreement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, that position will focus largely on the city reducing energy as opposed to climate change.

While both had a number of potential costs based on potential actions coming out of the motions, Koh and Constable stressed during a lengthy council discussion the actions outlined do not represent an implementation plan and are just there as examples of possible outcomes for each motion.

The costs, Koh explained, would be aimed more at “finding a way forward” and understanding the risks associated with climate change.

While Coun. Samson Hartland highlighted potential costs, Roddick was quick to suggest there would be no financial impact in declaring a climate change emergency.

Constable suggested the city could seek a legal opinion confirming that with Roddick then wondering aloud if the city can check with every other jurisdiction that’s made the declaration.

In a further email to local media Sept. 17, Roddick said it is important to clarify the difference between declaring an emergency and a “state of emergency” as set out in the territory’s Municipal Act.

Declaring a climate change emergency, he stated in his email, triggers only the actions that are explicitly detailed in the declaration unlike declaring a “state of emergency”.

Whether the city deals with the costs through initiatives aimed at addressing climate change or by having to fix infrastructure impacted by climate change down the road, there will be costs, Roddick pointed out.

“These costs are going to come down the line,” he said. “We need to prepare our citizens and our city.”

A 2017 publication by the Yukon government pointed to a number of costs associated with the impacts of climate change.

Among them the territory has spent an additional $200,000 per year since 2005 to maintain the Dempster Highway; melting permafrost has taken its toll on buildings like the Ross River School and the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre in Dawson.

Coun. Dan Boyd, meanwhile, argued the city is already working on adaptation through initiatives like fuel-risk managements and Fire Smart work among other projects outlined in the city budget.

Curteanu was also quick to point out that at the end of the day, the city has to manage with the resources it has available.

As council members contemplate the two administrative reports put forward, Climate Action Whitehorse has posted the Sept. 23 vote as an event on its Facebook page, calling on residents to “join us in showing council how important this issue is.”

It goes on to state the last time it was considered there was a standing-room only crowd in council chambers and it’s hoped the turnout will increase even more this time.

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read