Former city council candidate and engineer Matt Saunders on Monday night gave a delegation where he called Mayor Cam Guthrie “Mayor Chamberlain” in reference to British prime minister known for a policy of appeasement.

Saunders explained to The Post that, “in a [World War Two] analogy, [Neville] Chamberlain would be the guy pushing not to rock the boat. It would upset the fossil fuel industry and other shareholders too much.”

City Council on Monday Night

Saunders released the full text of his speech to The Post, some of which was not included in the actual auditory delegation.


Full delegation

Guelph’s climate emergency plan reflects a misunderstanding of established science.

It doesn’t pass muster statistically. The IPCC only has “medium confidence” that a 2050 target will avoid a catastrophic systems breakdown. That’s just a sixty-six percent chance of success.

It doesn’t pass muster sociologically. Innovations can be modeled using Rogers’ Innovation Adopton Curve: a few innovators and early adopters work out the kinks and pave the way for the majority to make the switch. But to hit zero emissions every laggard has to cross that finish line by 2050. For modern technological innovations – like the iPhone that came out in 2006 – this timescale is about fifteen years.

So the most privileged city in the most privileged country says we can only do as much as the worst in the world needs to do.  What we are really saying is that the rest of the world cannot possibly meet the target. Because these innovations don’t just have to make economic sense for energy importers like Guelph – they need to make the people sitting on the oil want to switch as well.

And – putting on my engineering hat now – it doesn’t pass muster from a systems perspective either.

That plan we just approved for Our Energy Guelph is full of high cost, low impact changes. I had edited this part out of my speech but due to Councillor Downer’s question to Reverend Lawson I will add it back in.

Every system has levers you can pull – leverage points – that let you affect the outcomes. We now have a plan from Our Energy Guelph that pulls on all sorts of physical leverage points. But any systems scientist will tell you that these are the least effective, highest-cost changes to make. It’s no wonder they said anything sooner than 2050 is impossible – this plan pulls all the wrong levers!

There are no quick and easy formulas to identify leverage points. But when they are found, we can try to understand their effectiveness. Real paradigm shifts – the stuff over here – is beyond the scope of a municipal council.

The other types of changes can be classified as informational and physical. It is much more effective to change flows of information than to change physical systems. Like OEG’s emission tracking app – great! That’s a proven idea. Let’s add some more information flows – like the proposal to make sure every plan and every staff report that comes to Council accurately calculates its life-cycle carbon implications.

Find out the real increase in emissions from widening York Road. If you really believe in science, analyze the induced demand. And then spend our limited budget on infrastructure that takes cars off the road instead. 

We heard recently at the Committee of the Whole that Ontario doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit homes fast enough to meet the 2035 target. Well, that’s another leverage point. You need to be figuring out how the city can support Conestoga College and the University in training enough people to do this work. Conestoga actually has a program called Renovation Technician; I suggest you start there.

So what do you need to do? Make concrete plans which put immediate carbon reduction as the all-important goal. Inform those plans with real community consultation. Give power back to the people and form a citizen’s assembly.

But first, you need to tell the truth about what this is. Specifically you, Mayor Guthrie, and you, Councillor Gibson. Twenty percent of our community still believe this is all a big hoax. They won’t listen to science. But they might listen to you. We face a climate emergency.

There are no other words to describe the crisis we face. If you do anything less than tell the truth, you are contradicting all science and all reason, and you are putting yourselves firmly in the camp of the deniers and the appeasers. You will be the Neville Chamberlains of the climate crisis.

Let’s finish with a quote from the IPCC report. Globally we have ‘a remaining budget of about 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide for a two thirds chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.’

Put that into context. Fifty-six tons, per person. Hard limit. And then nobody can emit greenhouse gases again. For eternity. Guelphites emit ten tons of carbon dioxide per person for year. And we each have fifty-six in total. 

That doesn’t equal thirty years. That’s five. 

So tell the truth and call it what it is: a climate emergency.

To do anything else is look at all the young people gathered here in the room and say: ‘I want to live the lifestyle I’m accustomed to, and all the sacrifices and all the suffering and all the death can be yours.’