Ottawa’s Climate Plan Audit: How are we Doing?

Pour le français, cliquez ici.

Ottawa’s Auditor General just released her audit of the City’s Climate Change Master Plan. While we’re glad to have this accountability, the news is as you might expect: we’re in some trouble. We strongly encourage you to read the audit itself—it’s only 23 pages—but here’s a summary. 

 

The Climate Change Master Plan

First, some background. The Climate Change Master Plan (CCMP), which was approved in 2020, is Ottawa's roadmap for mitigating and adapting to climate change between 2020 and 2025. The Plan outlines eight key actions like net zero emissions by 2050, creating a climate vulnerability assessment and a climate resiliency strategy, and applying a climate lens to the Official Plan. To learn more, check out this summary created by one of our Council Watchers. 

 

The Audit

The CCMP audit sought to assess how well the City is fulfilling the CCMP’s goals and priority actions up till February 2024. It breaks down into three parts: Strategic Direction, Governance, and Performance Management and Reporting. Each of these contains observations, recommendations, and a staff response, where appropriate. We’ll summarize each part below.

 

Strategic Direction

The Audit describes “misalignment between the CCMP and the current strategic direction on climate change”: essentially, the City aims to reduce community emissions—which are 95% of our total emissions—even though it doesn’t have direct control of these. Some “stakeholders” think the City should focus on corporate emissions—the remaining 5%—and on resiliency rather than adaptation. (We suspect this refers to discussions surrounding Councillor Hill’s CCMP motion late last year.) Furthermore, the Term of Council Priorities focus on corporate actions rather than community ones.

The Audit also observes the need for resources for both mitigation and resiliency. It noted that Energy Evolution came with no funding commitments, and the CCMP’s Capital Fund has only received $5 million in the last two budgets—even while we’re already feeling climate change’s effects.

Two recommendations emerge here:

  • Clarify the City’s role in catalyzing community action to align Council’s strategic direction with the City’s priorities
  • Establish “a holistic and realistic list of priority projects to address both mitigation and adaptation concurrently to achieve the City’s climate change goals”

The City’s Climate Management team responded by committing to this by Q2 2025.

 

Governance

The Audit observes that “accountabilities, roles and responsibilities have not been fully formalized for the climate change outcomes committed to by the City.” While the climate team has been considered the planning and policy arm and departments manage and implement projects, these roles haven’t been formalized, and “departments have not been formally assigned specific targets/metrics or outcomes.” The result has been inefficiencies, delays, duplication, additional costs, tension, and lack of accountability.

Furthermore, the Plan’s “Tiger Team” isn’t fulfilling its mandate. While this interdepartmental team was intended to provide strategic direction and make key decisions, in practice, it’s largely been an information-receiving body. This approach risks forgoing funding, strategic alignment, and a city-wide perspective. Finally, the City’s climate team is too temporary: fully 15 of 24 members are temporary. Indeed, over 50% of the CCMP’s inadequate funding pays staffing costs, leaving limited funds for capital investments.

Four recommendations emerge here:

  • Develop “an accountability framework for the climate change portfolio with formalized roles and responsibilities across the organization.”
  • The General Manager of the Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development department (PRED) should “define the role of the Climate Change & Resiliency team”
  • The General Manager should also “revisit the purpose/role of the Tiger Team” to ensure timely strategic advice and decision-making 
  • The City should “explore a permanent resourcing and funding strategy that aligns with the role and structure of the Climate Change & Resiliency team”

Management agreed with these recommendations and promised to “explore establishing a sustainable funding and resourcing strategy for the Climate Change and Resiliency Service Area” with the annual City budget process by Q4 2025.

 

Performance Management and Reporting

The Audit observed a lack of metrics on the City’s climate progress. For example, we haven’t produced corporate or community greenhouse gas inventories since 2020; how can we reduce emissions without this information? While Management claims that we’re on track for our 2025 corporate emissions target (unfortunately not the far larger community emissions), we have no way to verify this.

One final recommendation emerges here:

  • The PRED General Manager should define “specific, quantitative metrics that will be assessed, outside of the established greenhouse gas reduction targets, to demonstrate progress across the portfolio.”

Management agreed with this recommendation and promised to “review and establish new performance indicators based upon available data to highlight the City’s progress towards its climate change goals” with its governance framework to be completed by Q2 2025.

 

Our Take-aways

Again, we’re glad to have this audit. It’s essential that we find out how we’re doing if we want to make progress. Indeed, CCMP reporting has generally been disappointing. For example, we haven’t yet seen the annual progress report for 2023, and more concerningly, we haven’t yet seen the emissions inventory that the plan promises; the most recent is from 2020 on 2018 numbers. Late reporting is itself symptomatic of the climate team’s limited resources.

Two salient points in the audit jump out at us. First, the City must imperatively increase funding substantially and immediately. Funding Energy Evolution alone will cost $687 million annually—to be sure, money that will reap a handsome return beginning in the early 2030s, if we stay on track. Second, the City must make climate action a strategic priority. The Tiger Team must meet regularly. Temporary climate team members must be made permanent. Council must stop delaying critical, impactful measures like the the High Performance Development Standards. The climate emergency—as Council declared in 2019—demands decisive action.

 

Next steps

In the coming weeks and months, We’ll be keeping our eye on how the City’s climate team responds to the audit. Tackling the climate emergency with the urgency and seriousness that it warrants will require a concerted effort from all levels of the City's administration. 

What can you do in the meantime? First, you can delegate at the Audit Committee meeting on June 10 and express your concerns. Even if you don’t delegate, it’s a great idea to watch the proceedings. As always, you can contact your councillor; voice your concerns about the City’s implementation of the CCMP, and urge them to take concrete action. Finally, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media (@ecologyottawa); we’ll keep you posted on concrete ways to get involved.

Latest posts

Share this page

Take action

Sign Up To Volunteer
Council Watch
Sign Our Petitions
Make a Donation

Connect with us