On Tuesday, May 7, 2019 a rally was held outside the City of Kingston’s Strategic Planning meeting at Goodes Hall by 350 Kingston, a group of local citizens “committed to taking action on climate change.”
This was the city’s fourth strategic planning session and intended to finalize council’s 2019-2022 strategic plans.
Clad in red to represent emergency, the protestors gathered outside Goodes Hall and the meeting room with signs, bullhorns, and a red chair labelled as ‘the hot seat’ with the goal of ensuring that “councillors and the mayor know that inaction is negligent.” Stressing the severity and time-sensitive nature of climate change, the protest’s event page on Facebook said that city’s “strategic plan guiding the next four years needs to reflect that.”
After a unanimous council vote on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, Kingston made history as the first Ontario municipality to declare a climate emergency. Julia Miller, a member of 350 Kingston, said that the city government’s choice to identify climate change as an emergency and the impassioned words at last Friday’s climate strike at Confederation Park, gave citizens “optimism” and a “impression of impactful action.”
Miller felt that the council outline of the strategic plan was a “disappointment in terms of timeline, impact, and use of funds.” Miller criticized some of the city’s planned initiatives as “misleading,” saying that it was repacking existing initiatives as if they were new ideas.
“We’ve already been working on improving recycling,” she stated. “Let’s not spend $200,000 on a plan. Let’s use that money more effectively.”
The protestors expressed a desire for Kingston to “move faster” in their work towards mitigating the effects of climate change.
“We’re facing ecocide, and the faster we swallow that pill, the faster we can get our feet on the ground,” said protestor Karen Stoss. “That includes city governments.”
Miller agreed with Stoss’s view that climate change needs to be tackled at municipal level, noting that “Kingston is surrounded by communities that are flooding — Quinte and Ottawa.”
Representatives from Kingston Climate Hub were present with annotated copies of the city’s outline of their plans on climate change. The Climate Hub document also took issue with the city’s timeline, proposed initiatives, and financial allocation. Highlighting parts of the city’s plan to “Demonstrate Leadership on Climate Change,” Climate Hub criticized the “narrow scope” of the plan, and criticized the city’s direction to prepare a plan for council sometime in 2021, saying it “would likely mean that no work on implementation would begin in this term of council, losing a small and precious window of time for effective action.” The document also questioned the “$200,000 to consolidate reports” by 2021.
Overall, those voicing their concerns outside the meeting shared one thing loud and clear: a sense of urgency.
“We have to be aggressive in our targets” Miller said, proposing that the city should set higher goals in regards to climate action even if they may not achieve them “instead of aiming low and hitting it.”