Climate Change

City Flunking Climate Change Report Card

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 12, 2009

In December 2006, Environment Hamilton published a call to action for the city of Hamilton to address the challenges of climate change with ten short-term, low cost recommendations.

Today, EH issued an update on the city's progress in the past two years. Here's the EH report card:

City Climate Change Report Card
Sponsor a 2007 conference in Hamilton on Effective Municipal Actions to Address Climate Change and commission a study of best practices being utilized in other cities. B-
As part of the annual Clean Air Hamilton Report, include an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in Hamilton by municipal operations and by the community, and updates on programs and measures to reduce these emissions. B-
Adopt the recommendation of Dr Richard Gilbert to commission a detailed study on how Hamilton can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and respond effectively to the pending shortages of fossil fuels. C-
Establish a timetable, annual targets and an implementation program to achieve the city's Official Plan objective of increasing transit ridership to at least 100 rides per capita by 2020 (currently 47). F
Provide free public transit on all smog days. D
Support the establishment of high occupancy vehicle lanes within the City of Hamilton, and initiate steps to implement these by 2010 on at least two major east-west corridors (such as Main-King, Mohawk). F
Approve and enforce an anti-idling bylaw and adopt a bylaw banning or restricting the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers and weed whackers within the city of Hamilton. C
Impose a moratorium on all new commercial drive-thru operations, and establish a timetable to phase out existing commercial drive-thru operations. F
Establish a timetable and annual targets to double Hamilton's urban tree canopy by 2025. B-
Establish an after-hours lights-out program for all city facilities and offices and encourage private businesses to do the same. B-

Not very impressive during a period when public awareness of climate change (and the related issue of energy price volatility) exploded globally.

What struck me about the report card is that the measures the city has more or less adopted - sponsoring a conference, taking an inventory of city GHG emissions, setting a tree canopy timetable, and establishing an after-hours lights-out program - are relatively trivial and don't require a significant transformation of the city's priorities.

They're mostly window dressing on a municipal system of land use and transportation that is still largely antithetical to real GHG reductions.

The more substantive proposals have languished in inaction - like adopting Richard Gilbert's economic development proposal for an energy-creating and -conserving cluster - or else been soundly defeated - like the moratorium on drive thrus.

In 2007, Council voted against asking staff to investigate the possibility of free transit (let alone implementing it), and a more modest proposal to offer free transit on smog days has stalled.

Similarly, council passed an anti-idling bylaw that was so watered down it is effectively worthless as a tool of enforcement.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2009 at 14:02:09

that's what we're great at - hosting useless summits, conferences and sending out mass amounts of press releases full of non-important stats and window dressing.

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By Deputy Dawg (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2009 at 09:09:46

Long-time reader...first-time user...

I wonder if there would be consideration for revising the report card. Does Mohawk really need an HOV lane? With the Linc just south of Mohawk, I would prefer to see transit priority lanes on Mohawk instead.

And, my real quandry is with the after-hours, lights-out program. How does this combat the surge in graffiti and vandelism? Police will tell you to install better lighting to discourage loiterers. While I understand the need to reduce our electricity consumption...wouldn't it be better that we ensure that all lighting used is energy effecient?

One final hick-up...with all these calls for cut-backs on electricity use, are we not just shifting the use to the increased call for electric vehicles? I don't see the savings on this one...

Any education on this would be appreciated.


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2009 at 12:42:12

No matter what the city does it would not be good for Environment Hamilton until we are all living in caves. The cult of environmentalism continues. Long live the RHVP!!

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By Punishmentist (anonymous) | Posted March 17, 2009 at 07:40:32

Capitalist are you even a real person or are you just a right wing spambot some wag programmed to troll RTH and auto-post kneejerk comments based on keywords in the article? Because it looks like you didn't even *read* the article at all and see the very modest steps that EH actually recommended.

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