Falling Short on Climate Target, Edmonton Plans Suite of New Carbon Reduction Programs
Faced with a shortfall between his city’s carbon reduction target and its climate programming, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is vowing to do better.
The bad news showed up in a staff report earlier this month that showed the city falling short of the climate stabilization target in last year’s IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways. Iveson had committed to an ambitious climate goal when he hosted the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in March, 2018, and subsequently set a 2030 deadline to power 100% of city operations with renewable energy.
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He responded to the latest report by doubling down on his earlier promises.
“We’ve got to be on a downward trajectory,” he said. “If we throw up our hands and say, ‘Well, it’s too hard,’ that’s going to be bad for business in Edmonton. That’s going to be bad for our brand, bad for our ability to attract talent, and bad for the credibility of this province.”
The report said Edmonton currently emits 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year. CBC says that’s a lot higher than Vancouver’s three tonnes per capita, in a city where “the colder climate, the magnitude of industrial emissions, and the fact that fewer people walk, cycle, or ride public transit all contribute to the higher pollution rate.” The city’s energy transition and utility supply supervisor, Mike Mellross, said the current strategy would bring per capita emissions down to 11 tonnes per year by 2035.
“To meet the 1.5°C goal, however, the city must reach three tonnes a year by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050,” CBC notes. The report said that target will depend largely on the way the city plans and builds its transportation system, which “directly relates to Edmonton’s ability to reduce its emissions.”
The city is responding to the report by maintaining current programs, including a residential solar rebate, a home energy retrofit plan, and an emission reduction program for businesses, while looking at additional steps it can take. “We do hope to introduce some more support programs during this 18-month period,” Mellross said. “We’re not going to stop and plan, we’re going to do and plan.”
For now, “the energy strategy team is asking council to approve C$300,000 and 2.5 staff positions over 18 months to put a plan in place,” CBC says. “Mellross suggested targets under a revised plan would see 85% of all buildings in the city derive 60% of their energy from solar power by 2030, and by 2040 almost everyone would be using electric vehicles.”
“We have to get there. I mean, it would be irresponsible not to,” he said. “If we are the generation that fails to do this, you know, how can I look my kids in the eye? We absolutely can and must rise to this.”
David Dodge, volunteer co-chair of the local energy transition strategy advisory committee, said the city is doing a solid job so far. “Edmonton has one of the most sophisticated energy transition plans of any city that we’ve seen,” he said. “Which is pretty cool, I think, owing to the fact that we’re one of the most northern cities in the western hemisphere.”
Dodge added that the city is already a leader in areas like energy-efficient housing, with some local builders delivering net-zero homes for as little as $400,000. “The business community in Edmonton is also rising to this and has risen over the last decade in ways that nobody expected,” he said. “Our builders here are the very best at building super-energy-efficient buildings in all of Canada, including Vancouver.”