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Feb 12, 2020 Speech by Liz Couture, Drawdown-RH, to the RH staff report Climate Change Actions

Following is the speech given by delegate Liz Couture, from Drawdown Richmond Hill at the Feb 12, 2020 Richmond Hill Council Meeting to the agenda item 13.8 SRPRS.20.011 - Richmond Hill Climate Change Actions.

The first action on climate change that we need to take is to have open and honest conversations about it. I’m relieved that the we, the people of Richmond Hill are in the process of doing this already. So, I welcome this opportunity to acknowledge the staff report that has been prepared for consideration today.

Since the June 11 council meeting when I spoke about why I felt a need to declare a climate emergency, I have been involved in several initiatives in the community in order to help move the conversation forward. I helped organize the Richmond Hill welcome to former Ottawa city councillor to Richmond Hill so that he could talk about his book, called Burning Souls. It’s a story about climate change  with fictional characters, but based on real science.

Last October, I prepared a series of community discussions that was presented over three evenings. These sessions were  called Climate 101, Climate 201, and Climate 301, and were intended to have conversations with people of various levels of understanding.

In September, I took part in the climate strike organized by Carrie, and spoke about why I was inspired by Greta Thunberg, the teenager from Sweden who spoke at the United Nations, at Davos, and at the 2019 international climate conference. With so many attending the strike, I was feeling hopeful that our community is ready to talk about solutions. I do feel, however, that we need all levels of government to be actively involved to help us reach even more people.

This staff report that has been prepared for the councillors is to give background and a summary of climate changes actions possible at the municipal level. It takes into account the potential economic impact of climate change as future extreme weather conditions become more common.

I am pleased to say that I understand and appreciate the content in this report, because I have been doing quite a bit of reading about climate change for the last few years. I have read books by scientists, by psychologists, by economist, and I’ve  have attended conferences, environmental seminars, and election debates. 10 years ago, there was very little mention or understanding of the climate crisis, and now, well of course we hear it on the news all the time. The wildfires in Ontario, and British Columbia, and California, and Siberia, and of course Australia. These fires may not have been literally CAUSED by climate change, but have certainly been exacerbated by it. We are fortunate here in Richmond Hill, because we may not have the same emergency situations as in other parts of the world, but our food sources and way of life will certainly be affected by it. Furthermore, this is a problem that we are partly responsible for because of our use of burning natural gas and fuel in our everyday life. We don’t need to be made to feel guilty, though, and the worst thing we can start doing is SHAMING others for their lifestyle choices. The BEST thing we can do is decide what solutions we need to work on, and get down to business.

This staff report on climate change echos what we at DRAWDOWN Richmond Hill, DRAWDOWN Markham and DRAWDOWN Newmarket Aurora have already concluded: and that is that we need to concentrate our efforts on the three areas where we have the greatest carbon footprint: 1) on transportation alternatives, 2) on home heating and cooling and 3) land use choices. There are a 100 things we can be doing,  and several of them were mentioned last Sunday at the Climate Change Symposium. They had to do with food choices and reducing food waste.

What we need from Richmond Hill Council is to help promote these ideas even more in the community. Some of us citizens are using our own time and money to try to achieve that which would be so much easier if we had some creative financial backing and some ongoing verbal acknowledgement. I KNOW that council and staff are busy with so many things on your plate, and I appreciate that you are taking more time to learn about this subject. I appreciate that Councillor Perrelli came to our community town hall presentation back in December and purchased the two books on climate chance so that he could learn more.  I appreciate getting to know Richmond Hill staff, Patrick Li, Maria Flores, Myles O’Brian, Chris Ford, Julius Lindsay who I know are putting their heart and soul into the “Resilient Richmond Hill” program outreach and figuring out what we can do better. I look forward to their full Community Energy and Emissions Plan that is being prepared for release in 2021. I appreciate that we have a couple of climate champions on council, especially Councillor David West, who is always open to ideas and will to be available to help us. I hope that each of you councillors will reach out and have discussions in your wards and keep this conversation going. I look forward to working with you on additional outreach to the community, and truly appreciate that Richmond Hill’s efforts will be part of the global solution to climate change in the future.

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