City of Burlington declares climate emergency

Mountainside Arena solar photovoltaic installation
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installation through leasing of roof space at Mountainside Arena in Burlington. Image courtesy of QPA Solar Inc.

On Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019, Burlington’s City Council unanimously passed a motion to declare a climate emergency, joining over 400 local governments around the world. There were 12 delegations in support of the declaration – ten in person and two written.

What is a climate emergency?

A climate emergency helps to raise the profile that we all need to work together as individuals, businesses, communities and all levels of government to:

  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions caused by human influences to reduce the impact of climate change (mitigation); and
  • Adapt to the changes that we are already experiencing (adaptation).

Through this declaration, Burlington plans to deepen the city’s commitment to protecting our economy, environment and community from climate change; and immediately increase the priority of the fight against climate change and apply a climate lens to the plans and actions of the City of Burlington including Council strategic workplan and future budgets.

Two related commitments were outlined in the Burlington Strategic Plan 2015-2040:

  • The city recognizes that climate change is a significant issue and is working with the community and all levels of government towards the goal of the Burlington community being net carbon neutral.
  • The city’s operations are net carbon neutral.

Why now?

For years the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned about the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions that are negatively impacting our climate. The most recent global agreement is to keep a global temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid further economic, ecological and societal loss.

In reaction to the April 2019 Canada’s Changing Climate Report showing that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world (currently at 1.7 degrees) and nearly three times the rate in the north (currently at 2.3 degrees), Canada’s federal environmental commissioner and watchdog warned that Canada is not doing enough to reduce its emissions and reach its targets.

Locally we are already seeing impacts such as the ice storm in 2013, the flood in 2014, high Lake Ontario levels in 2017, more heat waves and increased damaging wind storms.

What’s next?

Staff will bring a report to the June 10, 2019 Committee of the Whole meeting that outlines actions taken to date and includes a critical path for the development of the first City of Burlington Climate Action Plan that will:

  • Address the operations of the corporation of the municipality as well as the functioning of the entire community;
  • Include a plan for a thorough and complete consultation with stakeholders and the community;
  • Increase action and ambition for the City’s climate change-related activities; and
  • Include performance metrics to track progress and timelines for achieving key deliverables/major milestones and a strategy to report back publicly on progress.

Staff will also bring the Burlington Climate Action Plan to Council for approval, which will replace the current Community Energy Plan, by December 2019.

Stay tuned to the Take Action Burlington blog at for future climate change related updates.

Take Action Burlington. Collectively we can and need to make a difference to reduce our impact on our local environment. Planet Earth needs our help.

10 thoughts on “City of Burlington declares climate emergency

  1. Good for you, City Council. Awareness and action are key. Unified grassroots voices will keep the momentum going. Our small city could indeed be a model. Let’s do even more.


  2. The City aims to go carbon neutral with operations and its Fleet Services, and yet it does not include the buses of Burlington Transit in the equation. Buses are considered to be a challenge for the ‘community’ to reduce its emissions.


    1. The City is a member of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Program administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and were recognized for achieving all five milestones under that program in 2017. Under the PCP program, buses are considered to be community rather than corporate emissions. Our Climate Action Plan will address buses too. Burlington’s Strategic Plan 2015-2040 also includes “the city recognizes that climate change is a significant issue and is working with the community and all levels of government towards the goal of the Burlington community being net carbon-neutral.”


      1. Thank you for the note. Is the City’s (2017) 5 Milestone report available to the public?

        Milestone 1: Create a Baseline Emissions Inventory and Forecast
        Milestone 2: Set Emissions Reduction Targets
        Milestone 3: Develop a Local Action Plan
        Milestone 4: Implement the Local Action Plan
        Milestone 5: Monitor Progress and Report Results


  3. Seriously? Nothing in this report is later than 2015. Does the City of Burlington really want to take credit for coal-fired plant closures forced by the province? Or the fact that Burlington Green has an Eco-Score on its website? In 2014 City Council endorsed a community wide emissions reduction target. What is that target and where are we at today? Actions speak louder than words.


  4. Still would like to know what the targets are.

    The annual reports on the City’s website only lists up to 2015. Different formats over the years make it difficult to measure apples to apples, though it does have some greater detail (electricity and water use by City buildings). A more comparative set of data is located on the provincial website
    which, by law, requires municipalities in Ontario to list yearly GHG emissions (in kg). You can compare how well Burlington is doing to other cities. And it has data from 2016 – the latest info available (come on, it’s 2019 already). Soon large commercial buildings will be added in upcoming years.

    Burlington does score well between 2011 and 2016 – Appleby Arena (also called Appleby Ice Centre) down 16.7%; City Hall down 35.6%; Angela Coughlin Pool down 8.9% and Tansley Woods Community Centre down a whopping 40% (but incomplete data may not include the Library at Tansley in 2011 which, if included, would indicate an increase in GHG emissions).

    One outlier might be the Seniors Centre with an increase in emissions over the time period of +9.4%. However, as always, these figures are subjective without audited verification. Each community is expected to report based on the honour system. No telling how these figures were arrived at. Lets hope the downward trend continues.


    1. Burlington’s Strategic Plan 2015-2040 have more aspirational targets of net carbon neutrality than those listed in the city’s first community and corporate energy plans. The updated plans will have targets in line with the strategic plan direction. Should you be interested in further details, please email Lynn (community energy plan) and Tom (corporate energy plan) would be happy to respond in more detail.


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