Edmonton has its first carbon budget. He expects to blow it

Edmonton released its first carbon budget on Thursday, a measure of its efforts to combat climate change.

The city officially declared a climate emergency in 2019. It has pledged to do its fair share as part of a global movement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

Edmonton has targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (from a 2005 baseline) of 35% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and to be emissions neutral by 2050. For the corporate city, it aims to be carbon neutral by 2040.

The 2023-26 carbon budget predicts that without major upheaval, Edmonton will miss these targets.

Climate resilience came to the fore during the last city administration, but Mayor Amarjeet Sohi picked up the slack. This week, he will take part in the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

“Although current forecasts show that based on our current level of actions and investments, we are unlikely to meet our targets, this does not mean that it is a given,” he said. he said in a statement sent on Friday.

« I am optimistic that this can change. There are transformational and very disruptive technologies that will help accelerate our energy transition that are already here and others that we don’t know about. »

What is a carbon budget?

Much like a financial budget, a carbon budget shows how much the city can spend over a period of time — only instead of money, it’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Edmonton has allocated 176 million tonnes of emissions for the entire community by 2050. The company city – which represents 2% of the total community – is set at 2.25 million tonnes.

Edmonton is one of the first municipalities in Canada to incorporate a carbon budget into its budget cycle. As such, he’s still learning how to do just that – the nearly 100-page carbon budget includes a host of assumptions and qualifications.

The document assesses approximately 400 items of capital, operating and utility budgets for their impacts on emissions. About 270 have been assessed as having direct greenhouse gas impacts, but only 60 provide a quantifiable number.

Two composite estimates are of particular interest. The transit capital composite is expected to reduce emissions by 23,700 tonnes by 2026, while the road capital composite – the Terwillegar Drive Freeway, the Yellowhead Trail Freeway and the 50 St. CP Rail – will add 12,800.

The budget says the city has already taken steps to limit emissions through various actions, including the installation of solar panels on city facilities and a long-term renewable electricity contract that is expected to come into effect. in 2024 – is expected to reduce emissions by 226,000 over 2023-26.

So how is Edmonton doing overall?

For the 2023-26 cycle, Edmonton as a whole has a target of 49.1 million tonnes of emissions. Based on the proposed budget, it will be short about 4 million tonnes.

The carbon budget projects that the city will use up all of its allocated emissions by 2037. By 2050 – its goal of carbon neutrality – it should still have emissions of 12.95 million tonnes per year.

That’s only about four million tons less than the city’s emissions in 2021. However, year-over-year since 2018, the city’s emissions have declined slightly.

The corporate city shouldn’t fare much better. It should use its allocated emissions by 2032.

The Community carbon budget should be in deficit. (City of Edmonton)

Jacob Komar is the Chairman of the Energy Transition and Climate Resilience Committee. He said they’ve been pushing the city on a carbon budget for years.

« We’re still a bit disappointed – I think a carbon budget is only useful if it’s used as a real budget, » he said in an interview on Friday.

« If we have a target goal for missions and a carbon budget tells us we’re not meeting it, we need to use that as a decision-making tool. »

He notes that a number of climate mitigation projects go unfunded, including some improvements to the cycle network and additional chargers for electric buses.

« There’s just a fundamental disconnect between the climate emergency we declared three years ago and our goals and what we’re doing. »

What should be done?

An administration report attached to the budget indicates that the additional municipal funding will have only a limited impact on emissions.

“Climate change is a collective issue that requires collective action,” it read.

“Climate leadership through operational emissions reductions must therefore be balanced with politics, other orders of government and private investment to achieve the goals set out in the Community Energy Transition Strategy.”

Neighborhood Métis County Ashley Salvador is the Climate Resilience Committee Advisor. She expressed concern that the proposed capital and operating budget contains very little to address climate change, especially as the city enters the « acceleration » phase of its transition strategy. .

« When it comes to climate action, we have many levers that we can and should act on – from land use planning to transportation to the efficiency of our buildings, » she said Friday in an interview.

« City council is going to have to have some really tough conversations about what’s really a priority in this budget. »

Salvador said there is also a financial imperative to either mitigate climate change now or pay for its impacts later. Com. Andrew Knack agrees.

« It’s going to be much, much, much more expensive to miss the environmental targets than to do it at the right time, » he said.

Knack reiterated the need to approve a $1.6 billion flood mitigation plan in 2019 due to changing weather conditions.

« I don’t want to create the same problem for the person sitting in my chair 20 years from now. »

Sohi said all levels of government, as well as the private sector, must invest heavily and aggressively in climate change and bring about transformational change in energy.

“Things are starting to move but not fast enough.

“Municipalities can fight climate change through many policy levers, use incentives, sometimes set regulations, but we have limited revenues and we need all sectors to come together so that cities and communities across the around the world, like Edmonton, are achieving our collective goals.

The Council’s budget deliberations are due to begin in December.


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