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Proposed climate action plan for London, Ont. endorsed by city committee

File photo of London city hall. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

A proposed climate emergency action plan for London, Ont., is one step closer to being approved after the public had a chance to weigh in.

First unveiled in early February, a 130-page draft version of the plan was formally tabled during Tuesday’s meeting of the strategic priorities and policy committee, which contains all members of city council.

The proposed plan comes after London’s city council declared a climate emergency in 2019.

The plan is proposing a goal of reaching a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which would be increased to 65 per cent reduction by 2035, 75 per cent by 2040, and then reach net zero by 2050. City staff say the plan is in keeping with the targets set out by the Paris Agreement.

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As well as reducing GHG emissions, the plan aims to improve the community’s resistance to climate change impacts and includes actions for individuals, households and businesses to help tackle the issue.

A webpage dedicated to the proposed plan is available on the City of London’s website.

Tuesday’s meeting heard from several Londoners, including Syklar Franke, the executive director of the London Environmental Network, which comprises more than 47 environmental groups.

Franke called on council to highlight specific and immediate priorities coming out of the plan, and to switch target deadlines to four-year council terms or the city’s budget cycle.

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“We do think it’s really important for the plan to be approved, so we can move on to the next phase, which is meeting those targets through actions,” Franke said.

“Our organization and the environmental community across the city, we’re ready to step up, we’re ready to help Londoners retrofit their homes, get out of their cars, plant trees, plant new species, so we’re ready to take action.”

Molly Miksa, the executive director of London Cycle Link, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making London a more bike-friendly city, also sought to have four-year targets connected to council terms, as well as separate data for cycling and active transportation versus buses and public transportation.

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“We’re very interested in seeing the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions addressed, that being vehicle gasoline, which accounts for almost 50 per cent of total emissions according to the CEAP,” Miksa added.

Gabor Sass, an assistant professor in Western University’s Centre for Environment and Stability, highlighted what he feels should be a priority for city councillors.

“Our top goal needs to be the creation of walkable communities of high density, but low skyline development with mixed land use,” Sass said

“This is the climate action that municipal council has the most power over and should pursue with haste.”

After hearing from Londoners, councillors also had a chance to share their perspective.

Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer said the city has a lot of plans headed in the right direction, but stressed that affordability is key.

“We need to make sure that the housing that’s being built is more affordable and it’s located closer to the places people want to go, so that they can get that housing and not have such long trips in the first place, regardless of how they’re trying to get around,” Helmer said.

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Ward 8 Coun. Anna Hopkins offered praise to her fellow councillors for approving the plan and said she’s happy they can now move forward with actions.

“I think we’re all on the same page of wanting a city that’s liveable…. I think it’s an exciting day here in our city,” Hopkins added.

Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen said while the plan is aspirational and offers guidance to the city, he’s concerned about the use of punitive and prohibitive bylaws in order to achieve certain targets.

“We’re going to have to be very careful that we approach this with logic and rationality, so that yes indeed we can bring everyone along,” Van Meerbergen said, adding that councillors should remind themselves London is still part of a global system contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in little old London, Ontario, we can do all these nice things we’re talking about and it may not make any difference whatsoever and I think we have to have our eyes open with that and realize that.”

Councillors ultimately voted unanimously to endorse the climate emergency action plan.

It will be up for final approval when city council holds its next meeting on April 12.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn Lebel

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