A group of local activists wants Sarnia’s political leaders to look at the big picture and declare a climate emergency.
Making such a declaration municipally would emphasize that climate change poses a threat to everyone, while encouraging City Hall to make environmentally sustainable decisions, said entrepreneur and educator Leslie Pullen.
Pullen and the 10-member group, called Climate Action Sarnia, drafted a letter for city council and is gathering signatures to present along with it.
“(It will ask) city councillors, ‘Why can’t we take action? Why are we not part of this dialog? Why can we not create change?’” Pullen said.
Twenty-eight Canadian cities have already declared climate emergencies with varying objectives and mandates, including London, Hamilton and Ottawa. They demand more energy-efficient buildings, improved public transit and more local food production.
Education campaigns can also be implemented, said Pullen.
Since the movement began in Australia in 2016 more than 450 cities representing 40 million people have declared climate emergencies around the world.
“This is not some reckless, weird, radical movement,” Pullen said. “People who are aware of these issues finally feel they have a voice. The movement is gathering momentum.”
The group is also planning a climate rally at City Hall on May 24, at 4 p.m. Several guest speakers are planned and attendees are encouraged to share ideas and best practices, Pullen said.
“I can’t speak for all of Sarnia but I am amazed at the people who are reaching out to me, wanting to be a part of this and seeing a need for it.”
Sarnia is already taking steps to address the impact of climate change. It’s creating a new staff position with the purpose of developing a climate change adaptation plan, with recommendations for the city’s strategic plan, official plan, zoning bylaws and infrastructure management.
The city recently received $10.4 million from a federal climate change adaptation fund to continue separating its combined sewers in the face of increasingly severe storms and the risk of flooding.
How a warming climate will specifically impact Sarnia-Lambton isn’t known, but a report in March from the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center predicted intensifying heat waves and extreme storms in the Great Lakes region.
Weathering what’s to come will require community and political unity, Pullen said.
“This movement is not about pointing fingers … we want to draw as many people from the left and right of the political spectrum into really seeing that this is important.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Climate Call to Action Rally
WHEN: May 24, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: Sarnia City Hall, 255 Christina St. N.