In a couple of weeks, on Wednesday, November 13, The Local Good will host the third Green Drinks event in our season-long exploration of the Climate Emergency. At Green Drinks: Carbon Neutral City we’ll explore the different ways in which cities can lead the way on fighting climate change and preparing for its impacts. I hope to see many members of the NextGen community there!
NextGen has kindly agreed to sponsor our November Green Drinks and three more upcoming events in the series. It’s a natural fit. NextGen’s mission is to help people under the age of 40 use their voices to actively shape the future of our city and The Local Good’s current focus, with this season of Green Drinks, is on getting more people, especially young people, talking about climate change and raising their voices to call for action.
Frankly, there’s no greater threat to our generation’s future thriving, as individuals and as a city, than the climate emergency. Mayor Iveson acknowledged this, at the meeting where city council officially declared a climate emergency, when he called climate change, “the grand challenge of our time … An opportunity for bold thinking, leadership, innovation. All things I know Edmontonians are capable of.” As a young person in Edmonton, anxious to see and be part of the bold climate leadership Major Iveson talked about, the past few months have knocked me back-and-forth between excitement and discouragement.
On the positive side, August’s climate emergency declaration came on the heels of a more substantial motion, one that directed City administration to build steeper emissions reduction targets into its Energy Transition Strategy. In December, council will review elements of the strategy that can be fast-tracked before the final, updated plan is delivered in late 2020. This ambitiousness is fitting for the city behind the Edmonton Declaration, a commitment signed by over 4,500 mayors that municipalities with lead the way on climate change mitigation efforts.
But, for all the talk of “grand challenge,” a number of recent council decisions have left many young people wondering when a real sense of climate urgency will kick in. In early September, council rejected a modest effort at transit-oriented densification when Glenora residents raised objections. About a month later, council voted down a motion to offer free public transit on the day of the federal election. In the days before the vote, dozens of young people had called and emailed their councillors in support of the motion, both because it would have made voting in the federal election easier and because free transit is the kind of ambitious climate policy we’re seeing from other cities and want to see here.
Now, with the release of the provincial budget, the headwinds for Edmonton’s mission to become carbon neutral by 2050 have become even stronger. Unexpected cuts and delays to the funding Edmonton receives from the province will make it harder to complete the Valley Line West LRT on schedule. Seven other transit-oriented projects will be impacted by the cancellation of the Alberta Community Transit Fund, including the expansion of our electric bus fleet and the redesign of the Stadium LRT Station. This is a bind many municipalities find themselves in: cites are on the front lines of the climate crisis but, with limited funding mechanisms of their own, they’re beholden to higher orders of government for the money they need to take climate action. For the generation that stands to lose everything from unchecked global warming these developments are disheartening.
The odds of success might not look very good right now, but that makes it more important than ever that we get together and talk about what a carbon neutral Edmonton might look like and how we’re going to get there. The climate emergency is real, we know what’s causing it and it’s accelerating faster than you think. It’s vital that the NextGen community joins the push to transform our city into the climate leader that we have the potential to be.
We need everyone, from all walks of life, professions and communities. We need to be imaginative and vocal as we make the case for the carbon neutral Edmonton that our generation and future generations deserve. Come out to Green Drinks on November 13 and let’s get started!