Climate change is an emergency in the nation’s capital.

That’s the decision of City Council, voting Wednesday to adopt a motion declaring a climate emergency.

The motion, put forward by Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard, passed with little resistance. Just two councillors–Kanata South’s Allan Hubley and Osgoode’s George Darouze–consistently voted against the various parts of the vote.

Here are the key points of the motion:

  • Declare a climate emergency in order to name, frame and deepen the city of Ottawa's commitment to protecting the economy, ecosystems and communtiy from climate change
  • Recognize climate change as a strategic priority in the city's strategic plan and budget directions for the remaining council term
  • Establish a council sponsors group that would include the chairs of the following committees: enviromental protection, water and waste management, planning commitee, transportation committee, transit commission, and the councilor liaison of environment stewardship advisory committee. 
  • Accord the city's greenhouse gas emissions targets to match the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change report, that says global leaders have to slash 2010 greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent before 2030. Otherwise, the world will see more serious climate disasters. 
  • Implement the Energy Evolution Final Report with a lens of inclusion and taking into account the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations. 
  • Complete a vulnerability assessment and create a Climate Resiliency Strategy. 
  • Direct funding from the Hydro Ottawa Dividends Surplus to reduce emissions
  • Work with senior levels of government on mitigating and preventing climate change disasters 

There was a debate on the motion before it passed, with the word “emergency” coming up as a concern for some councillors.

College Ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli was concerned labeling climate change an “emergency” would “open the flood gates” to similar motions for other issues like gang violence, homelessness and other “very important things.”

Climate change is “urgent and important but not necessarily an emergency,” Chiarelli said.

City Solicitor Rick O’Connor said this motion does not carry the same weight or power as declaring a state of emergency in the city.

“It is not under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that council would be acting,” O’Connor said. “There’s no triggering of our emergency plan, no automatic spending of money, the mayor will not be issuing orders.”

Innes Ward Coun. Laura Dudas said she was concerned about duplication of roles and layered bureaucracy through the establishment of a council sponsors group, which she said was very similar in makeup to the Finance and Economic Development Committee, but added she intended to support the motion regardless.

Adopting the motion comes with a $250,000 cost, which would be covered by Hydro Ottawa dividends.

With files from Anna Desmarais.