Kingstonians take to the streets as part of international climate strike

Hundreds of Kingstonians took to the streets to participate in the global climate strike on Friday, Mar. 15, 2019. While the size of the crowd fluctuated, anywhere from 300 to 800 people were involved throughout the day. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Kingstonians take to the streets as part of international climate strike

Anywhere from 300 to 800 people gathered in the streets of Kingston throughout the day, joining those in over 95 countries internationally taking part in the global ‘Climate Strike’ on Friday, Mar. 15, 2019.

Here in Kingston, the rally began on Queen’s University campus, where about 300 people who turned out to help raise global awareness of the current climate change crisis quickly became closer to 500 over the course of an hour. The event, which was organized by Divest Queen’s and Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC), began at 12 p.m. at the John Deutsch University Centre in the heart of Queen’s campus, where many students walked out of class to demonstrate.

There, Councillors Robert Kiley and Jim Neill joined the rally before it marched its way to its end point in front of City Hall. Kiley addressed those in attendance on campus imploring them to write letters to City Council ahead of their upcoming strategic planning “so we can be further galvanized to reduce our emissions drastically.”

“Friends, we are facing a climate emergency. That was the declaration made by City Council at the start of the month, a declaration that passed with full support. Every councillor, the mayor, all of us, rising up tell it like it is. Our city is a climate leader,” Kiley said in a statement to Kingstonist, referring to the Tuesday, Mar. 5 vote of City Council to declare a climate emergency, making Kingston the first city to do so in Ontario.

“Like you, we know we must act. Act to reduce our emissions drastically. To protect the most vulnerable. And to mitigate the tremendous financial burden of this emergency. Thank you for all you’re doing to divest, to educate, to act. You have a friend and ally in me and my council colleagues. Keep up the good fight,” Kiley said.

The rally then moved down Union Street towards City Hall, eventually gathering in Confederation Park. A number of local politicians turned out there in support of the Climate Strike, including MP Mark Gerretsen, MPP Ian Arthur, Councillors Bridgette Doherty and Peter Stroud, as well as former mayor Helen Cooper. All councillors in attendance addressed the crowd, all expressing support for the movement in general, and pledging to do what they can around the horseshoe in Council Chambers to ensure the voices of those at the rally are heard.

Gerretsen met some resentment from the crowd, with some activists indicating that the Liberals were being hypocritical due to their participation in the purchase of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. Gerretsen responded that climate change ought not to be a political issue.

Neill spoke after Gerretsen, and said took issue with Gerretsen saying climate change should not be a political issue.

“No, Gerretsen is wrong,” Neill said.

“This is, in fact, most definitely a political issue.”

After hearing from all speakers, music came on and the general ambiance of solidarity and passion for the environment and the future returned. The crowd size fluctuated throughout the day, but at any given time, somewhere from 300 to 800 people participated in the event.

The same day, the City of Kingston announced the following press release about Mayor Bryan Paterson’s participation in the upcoming Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy:

The City of Kingston has been confirmed as a member of the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change.
Mayor Bryan Paterson announced his intent to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy at the Feb. 19 regular council meeting. Membership was confirmed this week.
As a member of this global covenant, Mayor Paterson joins an international coalition of city leaders dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making their communities more resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and providing access to sustainable energy.
“This is a good opportunity for us to work together and share best practices and innovative tools to make a real impact,” says Mayor Paterson. On March 5, 2019, the City of Kingston became the first Ontario municipality to declare that climate change is an emergency that requires an urgent and strategic response. See the full motion passed at council.
As a member city of the Global Covenant of Mayor’s for Climate & Energy, Kingston will take stock of local greenhouse emissions and the current effects of climate change; create an action plan including clear and ambitious CO2 reduction targets, design resilience strategies, set goals to improve access to sustainable energy; and regularly report on the progress made.
“Joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy reinforces our city’s commitment to prioritizing climate leadership,” says Mayor Paterson.  “We are recognizing climate change as a critical global issue and undertaking the work necessary to ensure Kingston remains a smart, livable, leading City long into the future.”
“The actions we take at a local level can have a global impact; by improving and investing in innovative approaches to tackle climate change, we will help create a better world for residents today, and for generations to come.”
The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy brings together the commitments of thousands of cities in more than 120 countries and six continents, representing almost 10 per cent of the world’s population as of March 2018. By 2030, Global Covenant cities and local governments could collectively reduce 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year from business-as-usual. This equals the emissions of 276 million cars taken off the road.
Visit www.globalcovenantofmayors.org to learn more about the Global Covenant of Mayors. To view Kingston’s profile on the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, visit: https://www.globalcovenantofmayors.org/cities/kingston-on/#climate

With files from Cris Vilela.

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