Counties to work with municipal CAOs to create climate change strategy

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The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville [UCLG]has passed a motion to address climate change in the Counties. In early November, Michèle Andrews of Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford made a presentation to the UCLG Council asking them to declare a climate emergency and establish a climate action task force to address the climate crisis. Although Council were not keen on the idea of declaring a climate emergency, they did instruct Counties CAO Andy Brown to look into the issue and come back to them with a report.

On January 7, Andy reported to council, making the recommendation that he, as County CAO, seek participation by municipal CAO’s in Leeds and Grenville to further research and report back to council on a strategy or plan for climate change adaptation and mitigation in Leeds and Grenville.

The recommendation was met with clear support from all the Mayors around the Council table. The only concern seemed to be making sure that this item remains top of mind for all municipal CAOs in the coming months. “I want to make sure this doesn’t get buried in bureaucracy,” said Mayor of Rideau Lakes, Arie Hoogenboom. “It’s important that this doesn’t take months and months before it comes back to the County.”

Andy reassured council that he has already seen some interest from municipal CAOs about participating in the project. He says the research will be thorough, involving other municipal departments and community members. They should be able to have something back to council by the end of June.

Some concern was also raised at the meeting about giving direction regarding the scope of the project. “There are a billion ways to tackle and go about climate change, and I think we do need some clarity on what the focal points will be for proposed mitigation efforts,” said North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford. “Given that this is our first effort, it will be important that our CAOs are working to really align the realities of our region with their proposal.”

Andy assured council that he would be providing updates to them as the research and discussion progresses with the municipalities. “As soon as we’ve met and set out our scope of work, I’ll bring that back to verify it with you,” he said. “It will not be June before you see anything.”

Michèle Andrews is happy with the direction the County is taking to address climate change. She says the discussion on January 7 was a marked departure from the one surrounding her own presentation, when council seemed hesitant to take action. “Clearly, they have had some time to reflect, receive feedback from their communities, perhaps reading the news, and have changed their tone considerably,” she told the Times.

Mayor of Westport, Robin Jones, who chaired the meeting, said she was also pleased with the discussion. “When the Merrickville people came and made a presentation, I saw many newspapers where it sounded like this group was not concerned about climate change,” she said. “I think that our conversations today really bode well, and show that we want something substantial, we want some analysis done.”

There was no discussion at the meeting about the County declaring a climate emergency, but Michèle says she is not concerned. “I am not troubled by this, given the enthusiasm in today’s meeting for creating a plan,” she said. “That is what is most important, and probably in the course of time they will declare an emergency.”

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