Momentum for Climate Action in Ottawa

Update: Ottawa City Council declared on Apr. 24 that the city is facing a climate emergency. Councillors passed a motion that includes attention and funding to get the city back on track on its renewable energy and other climate change-related plans and measures.

It’s an excellent step that needs to be followed by further action, but it speaks to the priority that our elected officials are willing to give to this. Thanks to City Councillor Shawn Menard for putting forward the motion, the majority of Councillors and the Mayor who voted in favour, and Ecology Ottawa and all of the individuals and groups–particularly young people–who organized to let Council know residents want to see action on climate change.

See Ecology Ottawa’s helpful Explainer for a detailed analysis of the climate emergency motion and its significance for Ottawa.

* * *

Kudos to Ottawa’s Environment Committee for passing a motion for the City to declare a climate emergency and to intensify measures to address greenhouse gas emissions.

There was recognition that climate change is affecting Ottawa, that action on climate change is needed now, and that coming generations are counting on us to move quickly.

Much respect to Ecology Ottawa and to all the people and groups who shared their views with their elected officials, showed up outside City Hall and at the Committee meeting.

We’re looking forward to the full City Council passing the motion on Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019.



Creating the Impetus for Climate Action in Ottawa

Snow and ice on an Ottawa street – D. Deby photo

April’s snow and freezing rain, on top of several months of seemingly erratic weather, is a reminder that climate change is not a future scenario but a current reality.

Last week the federal government released a report, Canada in a Changing Climate. The report gathers the science on the effects of climate change in Canada, and sets out what is expected to happen with and without significant climate action.

One of the report’s main findings: Canada’s climate is warming more than twice as fast as the global average, due to a complexity of factors.

With climate change, we’ll continue to experience increased weather extremes and their effects: hotter temperatures, higher likelihood of high precipitation, flooding, changes to snow and ice cover, and risk of freshwater shortages, to name a few.

The report indicates that the degree to which we will experience these changes depends on how much and how fast we act.

For example, in Ontario, if greenhouse gas emissions are kept relatively low, the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius will increase by four in the latter part of this century. If emissions are high, the number of 30+ degree days is projected to increase by 38. The lower emissions scenario requires “rapid and deep emission reductions.”

Making those reductions requires concerted effort at all levels: individual, local, national and international. It’s daunting, but here’s a place to start:

Everyone is welcome to follow and contribute perspectives to the federal Canada in a Changing Climate initiative.

Infographic on Canada’s Changing Climate, from “Canada in a Changing Climate” report


Energy Action in Ottawa and Beyond

Solar panels image via

Welcome to Ottawa! Including to everyone driving big trucks en masse from across the country into downtown in the next couple of days. We’re so glad you could join us for Climate Action Week.

Climate Action Week is all about sustainable and renewable energy, focused on practical solutions to energy challenges. Yes, there are solutions, and yes, it’s time.

I get it. I want to be heard, be treated fairly and keep my family warm, healthy and safe too. My family roots are in fact in rural Alberta and small town B.C. and Saskatchewan, where my ancestors settled on Cree and other Indigenous lands and made a living there. I currently depend on fossil fuels that others work hard to provide.

The thing is, that’s what unsustainable means. An energy economy and livelihoods that are built on unsustainable energy sources—not to mention on trampling on Indigenous rights and damaging the environment that we all depend on—can’t last. We have to stop investing in this and make the transition to alternative sources, together. That—not fear and frustration and hatred—is what should unite us.

If your purpose in coming is to spread hatred and chaos, don’t bother. We have no room for that in this city, or this country.

If you’re a public figure trying to score political points from this mess, you should stop, and repair the damage you’ve caused.

If you’re concerned about all of this, help draw attention to the people, groups and businesses who are finding solutions. That’s the way we will all survive.

Climate Action in Ottawa

In January, Ottawa City Council voted 19-3 to change the name of the City’s standing committee on Environment and Climate Protection to Environmental Protection, Water and Waste.

This change in wording may seem minor, but it signifies something important. The new title suggests a view of the “environment” as something separate from our regular day-to-day existence, something we can allocate some small space to in our backyards or parks and tend from time to time. It conveys the perspective that the environment is primarily a municipal service to be delivered, rather than the very context in which we live and breathe.

Dropping the “climate” part goes counter to the urgency of taking action to address climate change, as underlined yet again by the world’s scientists and experts in calling for “‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” to limit global warming and its consequences. It’s a disconnect from the reality of the weather extremes that we’re experiencing and that are projected to worsen if we do nothing or too little.

At the same meeting, Ottawa City Council did discuss incorporating a “climate impact lens” across all committees and departments, but not right away.

Some municipalities, including Vancouver, Halifax and other cities around the world, are declaring climate change an emergency requiring immediate action. Here in Ottawa, political leadership at all levels—municipal, provincial and federal—is sorely lacking. Some positive measures have been introduced, but leadership has often been coming from community members and groups, including young people, instead. Some examples:

  • Inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, high school and university students in Europe, North America and elsewhere are organizing school strikes for climate action. Groups have been meeting on Parliament Hill and Confederation Park every month or weekly on Fridays to press for change.
  • Powershift: Young and Rising is happening on Algonquin Anishinabe land (Ottawa) from February 14-18, 2019. Hundreds of people, particularly young people, are expected to gather at this climate justice conference, to share ways to prompt climate action and create an alternative vision of equitable, sustainable living, through art, organizing and other strategies.
  • Ecology Ottawa has launched a campaign calling on Ottawa City Council to make climate action a priority in the 2019 budget and next Term of Council Priorities, and is asking people to sign a petition on their website.


  • Ottawa will be hosting Elizabeth May on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 to speak about the connections between the tornadoes that hit Ottawa last October and climate change.
  • Several groups are taking part in Climate Action Week 2019 in Ottawa, February 14-23, 2019, hosting a series of activities focused on transitioning to sustainable energy sources.

We do have climate leaders, climate solutions and people who care. The shift is coming.

Tragedy and Resilience

Abstract image by monicore on Pixabay

Public transit is supposed to be safe. So it was with horror and shock that Ottawans heard about the bus crash at the Westboro Transitway station on Friday afternoon. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy—the people involved, their families, friends, communities, first responders, service providers, those who are working to find out what happened and how to prevent such a thing from happening again, those who have looked for ways to offer comfort, transit users, residents.

There are sources of support if you need them:

The Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region provides phone lines if you need someone to talk to about how you’re feeling, are looking for information on services available, or are in crisis. The lines are open 24/7.

Ottawa Public Health has posted information on experiencing stressful events, what you might be feeling and where to get information and help if you need it.

CHEO has information on how to help kids cope with traumatic events.

Grief is experienced individually, but a resilient community is one that comes together at difficult times—this is one of those times.