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City of Edmonton declares climate emergency

WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton has declared a climate emergency. Vinesh Pratap takes a look at what that means.

Edmonton city council officially declared a climate emergency on Tuesday.

Ten councillors voted in favour of making the declaration, while also paving the way for actionable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Edmonton.

Council passed two resolutions Tuesday: a plan to respond to climate change – with a revised Community Energy Transition Strategy – and the climate emergency declaration.

READ MORE: Edmonton to hit its self-imposed carbon limit within 8 years: report

“This is a response to science first and foremost,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “I’m very comfortable in taking an evidence-based approach to this policy question.

“I think the fact we are a resource-producing and energy-producing region equips us to be energy problem solvers.”

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Watch below: Coun. Aaron Paquette joins Global News at Noon Edmonton to talk more about the declaration.

Councillor weighs in on Edmonton declaring climate emergency
Councillor weighs in on Edmonton declaring climate emergency

For supporters, the move is more than symbolic; it also means council can bring in an eight-step plan based on recommendations from the auditor. The city agreed with all eight recommendations and will implement four this year and four by next summer.

READ MORE: Crowds of Edmonton students march for climate change action

“We’re going to see reporting before the end of the year on changes that we can make,” Iveson said.

“We’re going to find whatever ways we can within whatever happens provincially and federally to take action,” he added. “Obviously, we can’t do it alone.”

The next steps in accelerating the energy strategy include transitioning Edmonton’s fleet to electric vehicles.

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Watch below (April 6): Edmonton recently purchased 50 new electric buses. And come 2020, the city will be home to the largest fleet of electric buses in Canada. Sarah Kraus has the details.

New electric buses on the way to Edmonton
New electric buses on the way to Edmonton

Iveson says actions that were planned for 2050 now have to be completed by 2030.

“We’re going to have to move towards carbon neutral buildings much faster than we originally thought.”

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Another step will be bringing in the SmartFare electronic touch-and-go transit system.

READ MORE: Edmonton Transit installs ‘tap-on tap-off’ fare validators on 5 buses

“With any technological project, it’s a difficult situation,” Manager of Edmonton Transit, Eddie Robar, said. “You look at a big transition, something that impacts our travelling ridership so prominently, you want to make sure you get that right before you implement and that takes time.”

READ MORE: Greenhouse gas intensity decreasing at Suncor, CNRL: report

But many on city council believe the status quo will not suffice.

“I don’t think calling it what it is — which is a local and planetary emergency — is inconsistent at all with what we learned when the IPCC (CitiesIPCC Science and Climate Change Conference) was here last spring and which informed the Edmonton Declaration, which has that same spirit behind it,” the mayor said.

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LISTEN: Edmonton city councillors Ben Henderson and Mike Nickel join Danielle Smith to discuss the declaration of climate emergency

On its website, the city explains the Edmonton Declaration is a “bold call-to-action for mayors to take the mantle of leadership on climate change, and amplify the message that rising greenhouse gas emissions severely impact cities.

The Edmonton Declaration:

  • Engages all levels of government to recognize the immediate and urgent need for action that will limit global warming to 1.5 C
  • Recognizes that cities face some of the most significant impacts of rising GHG emissions and bear much of the costs for adaptation and mitigation
  • Reinforces the importance and role of cities in achieving the targets in the Paris Agreement
  • Calls on the scientific community and other levels of government to provide better data and tools for science-based decision-making
  • Asks cities to look beyond their borders at the impact of consumption on GHG emissions
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