Climate change has been dominating headlines locally and internationally. The United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council has expressed caution about participating in the creation of a working group to establish a climate action plan for the region.

At the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, delegates went into serious overtime on the weekend to develop a final communique involving efforts to discontinue the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas reduction intended to keep the Earth’s temperature from increasing by an average temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

What happened in Glasgow and in the UCPR council chamber in L’Orignal are surprisingly similar. The UCPR’s mayors are as supportive of acting as the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers. The difficult balance of economic needs, maintaining a standard of living, and the politicization of climate change was also very evident during the discussion. 

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux correctly questioned if the regional level of government is in a position to take a lead role on a climate action plan because so many of the issues associated with climate change are outside the direct roles of UCPR departments. Although there is no UCPR Department of the Environment, there is no question that climate and other environmental issues should be considered as part of every decision made across all departments, whether it’s the use of diesel by the vehicle fleet or the sources of heating in UCPR-owned buildings. Leroux’s suggestion that South Nation Conservation instead take the lead on local climate issues holds little merit. Conservation authorities are in the business of protecting water resources, not controlling what comes out of exhaust pipes. 

There should be no debate over if climate change is real. The ideological right often labels it as an issue of the ideological left, and the left heaps scorn on those who do not take the issue seriously. Neither extreme creates the positive means to achieve a solution. The facts are there to prove the earth’s climate has, is, and will change, and affect the ability for human life to be safely and healthfully sustained. Scientific facts explaining the capacity of humans to detrimentally affect the climate first gained attention in the 1960s.  

While activists and oil industry representatives alike debated for hours in Glasgow, the UCPR mayors debated in a much shorter period of time whether the counties should join a Canadian Federation of Municipalities program that helps municipal governments set and achieve non legally binding climate action targets. After being assured joining was free and did not have any hidden obligations, the mayors agreed.  

La Nation Mayor Francois St-Amour accurately recommended the need for balance on the climate question when he said any working group should include representatives from the agriculture and transportation sectors. Both are major parts of the Prescott and Russell economy, and the people in those industries should not unfairly be in fear for their livelihoods. Everyone’s opinions, knowledge, and skills matter when addressing environmental issues.  

St-Amour wisely cautioned that the UCPR’s participation in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities climate program should not be done as just another gesture of virtue signaling. There is too much of that going on these days among individuals and groups of every political, cultural, and religious kind. As with anything, decisions should be made with sincerity and translate into decisive action. Style over substance does not solve problems.