Hamilton youth rally to urge new city council to take stronger action on climate change

Students from Westmount Secondary School gathered in front of Hamilton city hall to send a message to newly elected politicians that more needs to be done to address the climate emergency. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Hamilton youth are calling on the city’s new mayor and councillors to do more to address the climate crisis.

A group of Westmount Secondary School students held a climate strike at city hall on Friday, joined by members of the community and several newly elected Hamilton councillors.

Jordyn Boyer, one of the lead organizers behind the strike, said they wanted to hold this event immediately after the municipal election to send a message to the city’s newest politicians, especially mayor-elect Andrea Horwath.

“We want to show her immediately what we expect from her, and that’s big concrete climate action,” said Boyer.

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“We’re running out of time and she’s one of the few mayors that will have the ability left to be able to change stuff before we’re just on a one-way trip to extinction.”

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Alex Wilson, who was elected to represent Ward 13 in Monday’s election, was among the new council members who attended the strike to support the students. They said they hope to see more climate strikes from the city’s youth.

“We need to be held accountable, we need this to be constantly put on the radar,” said Wilson. “And without help from the outside, without other young people putting this issue on the agenda, it could fall to the wayside without that constant pressure.”

In August, city council approved a Climate Action Strategy that includes the creation of a new climate change office that will help guide the city toward reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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That strategy is a follow-up to the city declaring a climate emergency in 2019.

Read more: Hamilton achieves a major emissions reduction target thanks to COVID-19

Manasi I., another student organizer from Westmount, said it’s great to see their movement supported by some of Hamilton’s newest council members, but also infuriating that this kind of action is even necessary.

“It makes me angry. Angry to know that we have to put so much effort into problems that shouldn’t have been given to us in the first place. Angry to know that because of the actions of past generations, the people of the present and the people of the future are the ones who are facing the repercussions. And especially angry to know that the people who will face the brunt of the repercussions are those who have done nothing wrong at all.”

Click to play video: 'It’s ‘now or never’ to thwart climate disaster, says new UN report'
It’s ‘now or never’ to thwart climate disaster, says new UN report

The strike comes just days after a report from the United Nations that said the world has made “woefully inadequate” progress in reducing emissions in order to limit average global temperatures rising by more than 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

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Lynda Lukasik of Environment Hamilton said the UN is “sounding the alarm bell” in a way she’s never heard before.

“We’re in trouble at a planetary level. We’re heading in the wrong direction with emission levels, so I’m glad that youth are speaking up. We need to support them.”

Read more: Earth faces 2.8C rise after ‘woefully inadequate’ climate pledges: UN

Lukasik, who was one of the candidates for city council in Ward 5 during the election, said she’s optimistic about those who have been elected to represent Hamiltonians at city hall.

“We have some amazing new councillors who get it, so it warms my heart to think about what’s going to be possible here,” said Lukasik.

“We have a climate action strategy that (was passed) right before the election and we’ve got a city that’s creating an office of climate. So there are really important changes coming and great additional support around the council table, but we’ve got to push to make sure that they got off to a good start and an aggressive start because we have no time to lose.”


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