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Climate change may bring more emergencies to Calgary, agency says

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Though a number of Canadian municipalities have declared climate emergencies in recent months, Calgary does not appear poised to follow suit.

Tom Sampson, the head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said his team has been planning for climate-related events before municipalities began declaring emergencies.

“I don’t think people should declare an emergency until you know that you need to do something that’s different than what you could do or you’re charged to do in your current scenario,” he said.

Sampson said snowstorms, high winds, flooding and tornadoes are all top emergency risks likely to emerge in Calgary as a result of climate change, but said those events are part of existing emergency plans.

“The Calgary Emergency Management Agency’s job is to respond to, mitigate, prevent, anytime we can, any parts of those emergencies,” he said. “Calgary’s no stranger to weather oddities. We’ve had two snowfall warnings already, and we’re sitting here today at October 9.”

The City of Canmore declared a climate emergency on Oct. 1, as did the City of Edmonton in August.

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Coun. Ward Sutherland told CBC’s As It Happens that the city had taken action on climate change that was more effective than declaring a climate emergency.

“What people should be asking, and citizens should be asking … to the municipalities and the councils [is] what are you doing as a city to participate in this?” he said in the interview. “What are you doing as a change in terms of climate change? That should be the real question.”

Sampson said because climate change is occurring, it is already built into the city’s planning processes, whether or not it is considered an emergency.

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