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Edmonton vows to match global carbon targets

Warren Frey
Edmonton vows to match global carbon targets

EDMONTON, ALTA. – The City of Edmonton is punching up to bring greenhouse gas emissions levels down.

At an executive meeting on Sept. 19 city councilors approved a plan to update the city’s community energy transition strategy to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to match the global target of keeping the average temperature of the planet from rising more than 1.5 C.

“The current operating plan is in the community energy transition strategy, which has a greenhouse gas emission (GHG) strategy to reduce GHGs 35 per cent down past 2005 levels by 2035,” City of Edmonton energy transition and utility supply general supervisor Mike Mellross said.

The plan, initiated in 2015, also calls for a 25 per cent energy consumption reduction per person by 2035 along with ten per cent of Edmonton’s electricity generation coming from local renewable sources by the same date. 

While the current plan will reach the goal of 11 tonnes of GHG emissions per person by 2035 down from its current level of 20 tonnes per person, it isn’t capable of bringing GHG emission down to three tonnes per person, as promised by the City of Edmonton when it hosted the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in early 2018.

“We’re on trajectory to reach 35 per cent. It’s going to be difficult, but we’ll reach that goal. But to address the global rise of 1.5 degrees C, our plan would not get there,” Mellross said.

Councillors unanimously voted for city administration to produce a report with recommendations on how to reach the new target.

“Council wanted high level ideas and directions that we can pursue to meet that level,” Mellross said.

To plot out the possible courses of action, Mellross said the department used CityInsight, a city-scale energy, emissions and finance model.

“It’s a very unique tool that allows you to evaluate policy interventions across various sectors so you can see how each policy intervention will affect Edmonton’s carbon footprint,” he said.

The modelling results recommended six proposed “climate shifts,” including identifying tools and targets, examining zero emissions transportation and carbon neutral buildings, investigating new renewable technologies, ensuring the transition is equitable for stakeholders and eventually producing negative emissions.  

Mellross pointed to Edmonton’s cold winter temperatures as an additional but not insurmountable challenge.

“being in a cold climate has its own challenges, but since the climate is changing, that means an average temperature increase of 1.7 C in Edmonton. We could have not only a space heating challenge but a space cooling challenge,” he said.

The City of Edmonton’s operations only contribute around three per cent of GHG output with the majority coming from individuals and industry.

“It’s very important to point out the city alone can’t achieve carbon neutral future. We can set regulations, build awareness for residents and capacity, but we can’t do it alone so we look as a community as to how we reach those goals,” Mellross added. “We’ll talk to the building industry on how we can achieve deeper carbon reduction by 2030 and what levers the municipality can pull to help achieve the reduction. It’s a partnership between citizens, industry and the municipality.”

Mellross said a report in some draft sate will be prepared for council by fall 2020 with regular check-ins preceding that date.

The shift to a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative future doesn’t mean Edmonton will lose its position as an energy focused city, he added.

“Achieving a low carbon future isn’t about losing things, it’s about maintaining Edmontonian’s quality of life, catching this global megatrend and introducing innovation to our citizens. We already play in the energy game here in Edmonton, this is just a new energy game,” he said.

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