Calgary committee to discuss $87-billion strategy to reduce emissions

‘When it comes to climate change action, we all have a role to play’

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Calgary councillors will be opening discussions this week on the city’s updated climate strategy that would see a reduction of city-wide emissions to net zero by 2050 with a price tag of about $87 billion.

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City council’s community development committee is scheduled to hear a presentation from city administration on an updated climate strategy at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Councillors present will vote on whether or not to recommend the framework, titled “Calgary Climate Strategy — Pathways to 2050”, to council and rescind the out-of-date 2018 Climate Resilience Strategy Mitigation and Adaptation Plans.

The updated climate strategy is a 99-page document that would align Calgary with council’s climate emergency declaration and plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. City council voted to declare a climate emergency in November, with only councillors Sean Chu and Dan McLean opposed.

According to a report by city administration, the proposed Calgary Climate Strategy contains the overarching guiding principles and direction to reach net zero, a mitigation plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and an adaptation plan to build climate resilience into Calgary’s communities.

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The plan would require a cumulative investment of about $87 billion by 2050, which works out to approximately $3.1 billion annually. The strategy states the City of Calgary cannot fund this alone but will need investment and resources from the federal and provincial governments, and the private sector.

“Climate action requires a collaborative and co-ordinated effort from all Calgarians, including all businesses, industries, city-builders, organizations, educators and institutions. When it comes to climate change action, we all have a role to play,” the Calgary Climate Strategy says.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Coun. Richard Pootmans said he’ll be looking to ask administration about the breakdown of funding, though he said city staff have done an excellent job of framing the issue.

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“I’d like to know what the costs are going to be for people, government and business,” said Pootmans.

He said it’s great to have goals and objectives, but there needs to be more details about the costs for each party — including the average Calgary resident.

“The sums of money are so large, over such a long period of time, I would find it difficult to support without a greater understanding of how those costs are going to be shared by all the parts of our economy,” Pootmans said.

A summary report distributed alongside the strategy includes suggestions on where the city could find funding. There are opportunities for incentive programs, lending initiatives and partnerships, a list of potential federal or provincial grants to apply for, and the possibility of using taxes and levies as a source of funding.

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The report says the city would work to leverage public funding and mobilize private investment.

Coun. Kourtney Penner, who chairs the community development committee, said the Calgary Climate Strategy is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a sustainable and resilient future. It includes measures like building retrofits, renewable energy and zero-emissions mobility.

“It identifies the low, medium and high costs, and when certain things should be implemented, how long it will take to get there. This is a landscape scan of the pathway to reach net zero by 2050,” said Penner.

“What we’ll do is dig into the priorities, identifying where the sources of funding can come from, what the timeline is for implementation and who those partners are going to be.”

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The report from city administration also says the cost of climate impacts continues to grow and estimates this could increase to as much as $8 billion annually by 2080 if climate change is left unchecked.

“We know that the cost of inaction is actually a lot of upfront costs and a lot of costs to Calgarians through climate change events, through major storms and forest fires. We also have to talk about the impact to the cost of living,” said Penner. “How do we invest to save, and not just to save money but to save lives and livelihoods?”

The community development committee meeting is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Corporate Greenhouse Gas and Energy Plan, which focuses on city-owned assets, will be presented in a separate report on June 22.
Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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