King’s students presenting Halifax with report card

The final grades on HRM's climate report card. (Photo: Contributed)

The final grades on HRM’s climate report card. (Photo: Contributed)

Halifax is being presented with a climate report card. Their overall grade? C+.

Two first-year King’s students, Lily Barraclough and Cameron Yetman, are part of iMatter Youth, an international organization that works to get youth involved in climate action. Part of what they do is help youth create climate report cards for their cities.

Later today, Yetman, along with a student from Halifax West High School, will be presenting the report card to the Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The city was graded in five categories: zero emissions plan, renewable energy, waste, carbon removal, and youth involvement.

To get the results for the report card, Barraclough and Yetman contacted employees of the HRM to get their hands on public information that they then entered into a software program that compares the data with that of other cities, federal averages, and more. The resulting grades are on an A to F scale.

“It’s awesome because it’s youth giving cities a report card when we all get report cards all the time,” says Barraclough.

“I think it’s a useful accountability tool, and the way that it’s formatted in grades makes it really easy to understand because everybody has some kind of intuitive comprehension of what grades mean,” says Yetman.

The goals set out by the program come from the science of Dr. Jim Hansen, a former NASA scientist who wrote a paper in 2013 about ways to avoid the worst potential consequences of climate change, according to the detailed report that goes with the report card.

The C+ Halifax got is slightly better than Toronto, for example, which Barraclough says is at a C. She says most cities in North America haven’t reached a cumulative grade of A or even B on the report card, which is not good. She says they need to put more emphasis on climate action.

“We need to get cities to take those first steps.”

Halifax’s grades range from C- to A+ to “none”. Their best grade is in the waste category. Their worst is in the youth involvement category. The city receives no letter grade for that because there are not any climate-focused youth programs right now. This is something Barraclough and Yetman want to see improved.

“We’re being very clear that we need youth to be formally involved in this because we’re obviously going to be the ones that are leading our cities in twenty or thirty years. It’s not right for them to be making all these decisions without our input,” says Barraclough.

While the main goal is improvement overall, one specific goal could bring about a lot of change.

“The main thing we’re pushing for is for them to agree to have net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2040, and a lot of things would come under that. But it’s better to approach it with one main thing that we’re asking for,” says Barraclough. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep working on it.”

Other groups in the community have been showing their support for the report card. The Ecology Action Centre, some student groups at Dalhousie University, the King’s Students’ Union and others have all shown their support for the findings of the report card.

“We need a mass movement to be able to get anything done in government,” says Barraclough.

The presentation will take place at 1 p.m. today, February 2, at Halifax City Hall.