Updated: Richmond council puts off climate emergency declaration

Richmond city council has put the brakes on declaring a climate emergency. Despite the majority of council supporting a climate emergency declaration at last week’s committee meeting, council voted Monday evening to defer the motion and wait for a definition of “climate emergency” and an analysis by staff of possible ramifications of making the declaration.

Coun. Michael Wolfe, who put forward the motion, said after the meeting that he was disappointed. Instead of creating a framework for the future, council wants to stand on its past accomplishments and awards and its current environmental programs, he said. There seems to be a lack of understanding of what a climate emergency means, Wolfe added, but “climate is a global thing.”

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What council decided on Monday evening was a “step back,” Wolfe said, and gives excuses and a way-out for other cities when challenged with climate change.

“I hope other cities completely ignore what happened in Richmond and go about being leaders,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he has spoken to MP Joe Peschisolido about his motion and felt it would have been a step toward getting attention with higher levels of government.

At the committee meeting last week, only Couns. Alexa Loo and Chak Au opposed the motion, which had been separated from action items, including setting zero emissions targets.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie pointed out that the city is already doing many things to fight climate change.

Loo put forward the referral on the climate emergency declaration so that city staff could come back with a definition of “climate emergency.”

She said when a “senior official” makes a declaration of an emergency, it has “serious ramifications.”

The referral was seconded by Coun. Linda McPhail, and it passed with Couns. Carol Day, Kelly Greene, Wolfe and Harold Steves voting in opposition.

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