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Climate change recommendations from London city staff earn committee support

A committee of London councillors approved climate change recommendations from city staff on Monday.
A committee of London councillors approved climate change recommendations from city staff on Monday. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL File

Several recommendations from city staff that aim to make London more environmentally friendly have garnered the support of the city’s strategic priorities and policy committee (SPPC).

The SPPC, which contains all 15 members of city council, handed down the endorsement on Monday despite a motion from Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst that threatened to delay the process.

READ MORE: Net zero by 2050: London city staff unveil climate change recommendations

The recommendations were presented in a report to the SPPC that arrived seven months after London city councillors declared a climate emergency.

It outlines actions that can be taken immediately, actions to take within the next four months and actions to take within one year — all with the goal of reducing energy use and increasing climate change mitigation.

The 28 actions include immediately establishing an internal team to help implement climate change emergency initiatives, launching the process to develop a new climate emergency action plan, creating a new climate emergency area and developing a climate emergency evaluation tool that will be used to review all major existing programs and projects.

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A highlight of the report is a goal to have London achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a deadline that’s in line with UN recommendations.

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A significant part of the SPPC’s discussion on the recommendations was devoted to a motion from van Holst that threatened to kill the recommendations’ chances of being endorsed.

In a three-page letter sent to the SPPC ahead of Monday’s meeting, van Holst wrote that he wanted to see the “entire matter be referred back to staff to investigate what parts of the climate change narrative stand up to scrutiny.”

In his letter, van Holst took aim at what he referred to as the “the carbon-dioxide-is-bad narrative championed by the UN [Intergovernmental] Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

“When we’re going to launch on such a big initiative, we should actually verify the truth of those things,” van Holst told fellow councillors during Monday’s meeting.

READ MORE: London city councillors declare climate emergency

The motion received harsh criticism from Ward 4 Coun. and Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer, who told the SPPC he hoped the motion would be “soundly defeated.”

“You have to look at the evidence in front of you, and either you believe in what is being proposed by the scientists or you believe what Coun. van Holst believes,” Helmer said.

“We have to look at the evidence that’s in front of us, make the best decisions we can, implement policy and then move on.”

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The only support for van Holst’s motion came from Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen, who argued that there is a lack of unanimity in the scientific community in regards to climate change.

Despite the appeals of van Holst and Van Meerbergen, the motion failed 11-2, with councillors Phil Squire and Arielle Kayabaga absent from the vote.

As for city staff’s recommendations, two separate votes that split up different aspects of plan garnered favour with the SPPC.

Armed with a committee endorsement, city staff’s plan will have a chance to earn a final approval when the full city council meets on Tuesday.

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— With files from Global News’ Jacquelyn Lebel