When Peterborough city council met on Monday night, it was to discuss having staff come up with a report on the city declaring a climate emergency.
But, when council adjourned, an emergency had already been declared.
Coun. Henry Clarke made the motion to declare the emergency now instead of later.
After deliberating the issue, council voted unanimously in favour of the motion.
“We want to clearly tell the community that this is a clear priority,” said Clarke. “We want people to get involved, have their ideas and do things. A lot of little changes will add up to make a difference.”
Several delegations spoke to council on the matter Monday night, including some Peterborough students.
“Last night was one of the most powerful events I’ve ever been to,” said Annabelle Valliant-Fraser, a Grade 11 student at Adam Scott Collegiate Vocational Institute. “It was cool to see the youth come and talk about the issue. It was awesome to see how young people like me can make a difference.”
Cam Douglas, a Peterborough teacher and climate activist, also spoke to council.
“I see the fear and anger and the uncertainty the youth have about their future,” said Douglas. “I also see their overwhelming sense of hope that this can work its way through, if people put their minds to it.”
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On Friday, hundreds of Peterborough students took to Confederation Park in front of city hall to rally in the Global Climate Strike.
Dana Jordan, a Grade 11 student at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School, said urging council to declare a climate emergency was one of the students’ main priorities.
“We want them to start taking action on that here,” Jordan said on Friday.
Mayor Diane Therrien was absent from the meeting due to illness, but tweeted her support for the city’s move to address the climate crisis.
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The next step is to wait on a report back from city staff and the environmental committee on recommendations and costs on climate-saving measures, including reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2031, as outlined in the Greater Peterborough Area Climate Change Action Plan.
“We won’t be waiting the almost six months for that to be ready,” added Clarke. “There will be items in the upcoming budget that will be identified as climate change. The first time that’s ever been done here — nice move.”