‘If not now, when?’: N.B. capital city declares climate emergency

Click to play video: 'Fredericton declares climate emergency'
Fredericton declares climate emergency
Fredericton has made a climate emergency declaration. It's the fourth Atlantic Canadian city to do so -- something advocacy groups pushed for. It's also raising questions about how the Higgs government is treating the climate issue. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story. – Mar 30, 2023

The City of Fredericton has made a climate emergency declaration.

It was approved at the council’s regular Monday meeting after a small group presented it with a petition signed by 500 people and 12 civil organizations, businesses and faith organizations.

Fredericton is the fourth and final capital city in Atlantic Canada to adopt the declaration.

“It’s just a way for the community to be aware that we are in tune with things that need to change in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions and basically become a better stewardship for the community,” said Kevin Darrah, chair of the environment committee and councillor for Ward 7.

The declaration, according to the wording, “carries with it significant meaning, signalling to the public the city’s acknowledgement of the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis and a deep commitment to urgently eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by empowering residents and city staff to dramatically lower their carbon footprints by increasing funding and mobilizing resources towards addressing the crisis.”

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It was supported by a presentation that began: “If not now, when?”

Darrah agrees and said there is work to be done to help mitigate the risk communities, especially in Atlantic Canada face with respect to climate change.

The federal government made a similar declaration in 2019, but none from the provincial government, as it looks to renew efforts to extract shale gas and invest in small modular reactors research.

“There are things that the province needs to do in order to benefit and help the province benefit,” Darrah said of whether the province would replicate the city’s efforts.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he understands the climate is changing, but draws concern to the province’s reliance on outside energy sources and questions what making a climate emergency declaration means instead of looking at solutions to an energy supply.

“But what does that mean, does that mean every consumer in the province just needs to pay more energy,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Green Party of New Brunswick wants province to declare a climate emergency'
Green Party of New Brunswick wants province to declare a climate emergency

Higgs noted an incident in February when Hydro Quebec cut power to the province because of a cold snap that impacted both provinces.

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“There was too much wind, many of the windmills had to be shut down,” he said.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick said it is pleased by the declaration, but said the province would do well to learn from its capital city’s governance.

Moe Qureshi, the CCNB’s manager of climate solutions, was on hand when the motion was approved.

“The message from scientists all over the world is immediate action, we need to take steps toward solutions and solutions mean a cleaner strategy,” he said. “We shouldn’t go back to those days. When we think about this climate emergency, we need to stop burning stuff. There is no reason to keep burning oil or shale.”

Qureshi said relying on the creation of SMRs, which can take up to 10 years to build, will only set us back.

“I think New Brunswick as a whole has to invest in a clean strategy,” he said.

Megan Mitton, a Green MLA, has submitted a motion to declare a provincial climate emergency declaration, which is expected to be debated next week.

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