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LETTER: New climate change town staffer necessary, says environmental group

The Collingwood Climate Action Team is advocating in favour of a new town staff position for a climate change specialist proposed in the 2021 budget
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The following letter was submitted by the Collingwood Climate Action Team in response to the Town of Collingwood's proposed 2021 budget. 

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In its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis, Collingwood has made some significant commitments to become a sustainable, resilient, and just community. The town is pursuing United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11; Sustainable Cities, and recently hosted a virtual international forum on the topic.

Collingwood also followed last year’s climate emergency declaration by joining the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, an organization that supports municipalities in setting and achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions targets. 

These bold initiatives position Collingwood for forthcoming funding from the federal government, which plans to set a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050 with the recent introduction of Bill C-12.

If Collingwood is to achieve its potential, we must now take tangible steps. This requires the allocation of resources, and the appointment of individuals who are made responsible and accountable for implementation.

Effectively moving forward with this agenda takes time and resources at a time when the town is stretched particularly thin by the very crises that need to be addressed. Town staff have indicated that there is no room on anyone’s plate at this time to take on any more, and that is why a recent report tabled by Executive Director of Corporate and Community Services Dean Collver recommended the contract hiring of a Climate Change Specialist. That recommendation is being considered in the draft budget for next year. 

The creation of a new staff position is an investment in our community and our future. We cannot afford to ignore the climate crisis; in fact, to do so is financially irresponsible. The Insurance Bureau of Canada released a study last year that found every $1 spent on resilient infrastructure now will save $6 in the future. Town council was recently forced to allocate $300,000 for emergency repairs at Sunset Point due to high water levels and storm surges. This type of infrastructure repair will become more commonplace as global average temperature rises, as the frequency and severity of once-in-a-century weather events increase dramatically with every degree of warming. 

Collingwood’s climate emergency declaration signalled that the community would meet this challenge with meaningful action. Having a Climate Change Specialist on staff will ensure that Collingwood is able to successfully procure funding, coordinate a climate action plan that will include measurements as set out in the FCM-PCP program, and implement mitigation and adaptation measures.

Climate change is a real threat but also an opportunity. This investment will ensure Collingwood remains a resilient, sustainable, and vibrant town that is an example for other communities to follow.

Nicholas Clayton 
Collingwood, ON