The rapidly changing climate poses a dire threat to the people of Ottawa. The violent storms, flooding and extreme temperatures we have experienced in recent years are a sign of the future. The city must prepare for the changes to come, and do its part to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. The city took a step forward in 2014 by approving an Air Quality and Climate Change Plan. The plan now needs funding and due diligence to make it effective.
Ottawa’s climate change plan sets a very modest target for reducing the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions: 20 per cent per capita from 2012 levels by the year 2024. Because the city’s population is expected to grow substantially, the reduction in actual tonnage of greenhouse-gas emissions envisioned would be in the neighbourhood of 12 per cent.
By comparison, Vancouver set a 10-year target of 33 per cent of actual tonnage. Calgary’s target is 20 per cent of actual tonnage over eight years. The province of Ontario pledged to reduce emissions by 20 per cent of actual tonnage by 2020.
Almost half of the greenhouse gasses produced in Ottawa come from buildings (heating, air conditioning and lighting); an additional 40 per cent comes from transportation. Through building permits, zoning rules, and road management, the city can play a major role encouraging emissions reductions. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities says about half of greenhouse gas emissions in Canadian cities fall under the jurisdiction of municipalities.
According to Ottawa’s plan, over the next ten years the city will:
- Implement cost-effective improvements across city operations.
- Provide people with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions.
- Assist those who want to make their homes, businesses, and investment properties more energy-efficient and resilient.
- Provide direction and certainty to the design and construction industry for the creation of sustainable urban spaces and structures.
- Develop a stewardship program to manage and secure land to serve as natural water reservoirs, windbreaks, air filters, and carbon sinks.
The initial rigour and candour of the 2014 Clean Air and Climate Change Management Plan is laudable, as well as the apparent political will. But new initiatives will be essential for the plan to work. Residents will need help to reduce emissions and adapt, and the city will need to move quickly on its plans for building standards and land stewardship. It’s time for new thinking and concrete commitments.
Ask the Candidates
Climate change is a municipal issue. Ecology Ottawa would like all candidates to strongly support the city’s new climate change plan. If elected, they will determine the funding and priority accorded to climate change over the next four years. Ask your candidate about climate change.
As part of a general survey ahead of the October municipal elections, Ecology Ottawa asked all candidates for mayor and city council to answer three questions regarding their plans for how Ottawa can address climate change:
- Do you agree that human-induced climate change is an urgent issue and all levels of government have a role to play in helping to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions?
- If elected, will you push for the full implementation of the City of Ottawa’s Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, including items identified in the plan for the 2015 budget?
- The Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan establishes the modest goal of reducing Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent per capita by 2024, but leaves open a lot of space for new initiatives to emerge in the coming years. If elected, will you push for actions aimed at surpassing the current goal?