regional council

HRM considers declaring climate change emergency

Declaration seen as symbolic by several councillors

Halifax regional council has agreed that the city is in a climate emergency, but it could be a year before it is officially declared.

The motion, brought forth by Coun. Richard Zurawski and amended during council, sparked an hour of debate.

“I am truly humbled by the discussion council has had today regarding climate change,” he said. “In many ways, you are as concerned as I am vocal about climate change.”

Zurawski’s motion called for a staff report to recognize “the breakdown of the stable climate and sea levels under which human civilization developed constitutes an emergency for HRM.” He also asked for updated staff reports about climate change, including the creation of a climate directorate.

Council debated the timeline of three months suggested in the motion. Mayor Mike Savage said it makes him “nervous” to see a timeline on reports.

“This is not a report that can be generated in 90 days,” said Jacques Dubé, the Halifax Regional Municipality’s chief administrative officer.

Zurawski, a former meteorologist, said he included a 90-day timeline to “highlight the emergency of climate change” and instigate a discussion.

The motion was further amended to give staff a year to prepare the report.

Most councillors agreed climate change is an emergency, but a few wondered how the staff report would differ from the Climate Change Action Plan set to be released next year.

David Hendsbee, councillor for Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore, said climate change is a concern for him, as his district is the largest coastal district in the HRM. However, he wanted clarification on what it would mean to declare a climate emergency.

Coun. Sam Austin said he believed the declaration would be “symbolic.” Many in the room, including Dubé, agreed.

Following the debate, council voted unanimously for the report to be completed by next year.

This makes Halifax the second city in Canada to make a statement about a climate emergency, following Vancouver city council’s declaration earlier this month.