Climate Change Master Plan Update

This week, Ottawa City's Environment and Climate Change Committee received the annual update report from City staff on progress under the Climate Change Master Plan, the ambitious strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation work needed in the Nation's Capital.

Below you can find the delegation given by Ecology Ottawa's Climate Change Campaign Organizer, Cheryl Randall, on that report.

But staggeringly, public delegations were made in that meeting by a COHORT of well organized, strategic climate deniers, starting with Tom Harris of the Heartland Institute, the US conservative think tank. Those delegations were well organized, with representatives from a range of people with seemingly respectable backgrounds, covering a range of different perspectives all designed to create doubt about the need for climate action, the same tactic that the tobacco industry used to sow doubt about the negative health impacts of smoking from the 1970s. We must be on our guard. Climate action delay now is a form of climate denial. 

It is so important that we take stock of our climate progress as a municipality, and I am genuinely grateful to staff in the Climate Change and Resiliency team for the honesty and transparency of this report in highlighting the many areas where we are not yet on track. I would like to comment on 6 points raised in the update report.

First of all, applying a climate lens for the first time to new capital requests in the 2023 budget is such a critical step forward for the City in terms of climate. Of course, that climate lens still needs some “fine-tuning”: the screening tool needs to be revised to clearly identify capital budget allocations that will increase emissions and lock-in future fossil fuel infrastructure useBut we are glad to have a starting point.

Secondly, having climate in the 2023 budget as a line item to fund climate work, rather than relying on off-budget Hydro Ottawa surpluses (when they occur), is so important. Of course there is a huge gap between the $5m annual capital commitment agreed in this year’s budget and the $687m called for annually for mitigation under Energy Evolution and I note the $760 million of external funding that City staff secured over the last 1.5 years; within that funding, having campaigned for electric buses for so long at Ecology Ottawa, we are of course thrilled to see this now becoming a reality. We know that with more funding, specifically this itemized, predictable funding now in our City Budget, the City can leverage more provincial and federal funding, as well as build capacity through city staff and it is our hope that this will reduce many of the delays currently listed as attributable to lack of staff capacity. 

Thirdly, at Ecology Ottawa we are big believers in the potential of the Climate Change Master Plan and Energy Evolution to help us meet our climate targets. It is an ambitious strategy with hard targets in line with IPCC scienceBut poorly funded plans, or ones where improvements are not being actioned, will fail to protect our future in Ottawa. If the city makes ambitious climate investments, it will see *billions* of dollars in return on investment and with climate change the cost of action is dwarfed by the long-term costs of inaction. The Energy Evolution document clearly sets out the specific return on investment that we can expect to see. Looking at the status of Energy Evolution projects, a devastatingly small number of items are on track, whilst Ottawa residents experience the effects of living in a climate emergency. We simply must do better!

Fourth, Key Performance Indicators have not been defined in MANY of the strategies and plans supporting the Climate Change Master Plan. In any form of planning, we must ask ourselves what we are aiming for, how we will know in 5 and 10 years that we are moving in the right direction. It is vitally important that targets, indicators, metrics and monitoring are embedded into all of the policies under the Climate Change Master Plan. We are therefore very pleased to see that staff will continue to develop performance indicators and a dashboard for the City’s website. We would push that this is done as rapidly as possible, with truly meaningful metrics for monitoring our progress in terms of both mitigation and adaptation. 

Fifth, it is disappointing not to have an annual GHG emissions report, a year and a half after the last update in October 2021. We are of course anticipating that post-pandemic emissions will rise, and it is important to know by how much as quickly as possible. Releasing the results for 2021 and 2022 following the completion of the third party methodology review later this year must be prioritized with the urgency that it deserves. These key data are essential in propelling action. 

Finally, we heard that embodied carbon is outside the scope of Council’s current emissions targets and reporting. This means that new sprawling developments, etc. simply don't count in the emissions total currently. Yet we know that in infrastructure projects such as highway widenings, over 75% of a project’s total carbon footprint result from embodied carbon. We are therefore so glad to see the recommendation from staff to explore the feasibility of including embodied carbon in the methodology for GHG emissions accounting. Along these lines, we also strongly support the note that staff will review project management processes to embed climate considerations earlier in the development process, so that projects do not experience carbon lock-in and are not exposed to increased climate risks. 

Ottawa’s plan to reach net-zero through the Climate Change Master Plan and Energy Evolution would make Ottawa a national leader - if properly funded and implemented, with strong leadership from senior management.

C3 2022 Climate Progress Account - Rapport de C3 sur le progrès en matière du climat en 2022

A member of the Peoples Official Plan, Citizen Climate Counsel (C3), has launched a 2022 Climate Progress Account report assessing the City of Ottawa’s progress on implementing its climate priorities and agenda. C3 tracked all of the City of Ottawa’s 159 milestones outlined in their various climate plans: Climate Change Master Plan, Energy Evolution and other city documents. C3 then reviewed city council and committee meeting minutes, staff reports and more to track the city’s progress on these milestones. This evaluation clearly demonstrated that the city of Ottawa is not on track to achieve its climate targets. 

Introducing the Urban Climate Alliance's Accountability Framework Handbook!

Ecology Ottawa is part of the Urban Climate Alliance, a network of four Ontario-based municipal environmental organizations working to take climate action at the city level. Other members include Environment Hamilton, the Citizens Environment Alliance and Toronto Environmental Alliance.

We know that cities are critical to climate action. Drawing from our collective experience, the Urban Climate Alliance prepared this handbook to help other cities tackle climate accountability. 

Alta Vista 15-Minute Neighbourhood Workshop Report

Over two Saturdays in March 2021, Ecology Ottawa hosted a workshop for residents of the Alta Vista community and other interested parties, led by Walkable Ottawa's founder Rosaline Hill and volunteer Carolyn Mackenzie.

The purpose of the workshop was to foster discussion around a range of issues related to creating a more walkable neighbourhood, and to generate ideas for further exploration and evaluation.

Pushing changes into the draft Official Plan

The Official Plan is Ottawa’s major land use and policy document, and will shape our city for at least the next 25 years. Something this big demands major public engagement, and Ottawans have stepped up in a big way. We’ve seen 500-person rallies to stop sprawl, packed Saturday morning Zoom workshops on neighbourhood design, and overwhelming public input into arcane city processes. We’ve seen community outrage at last-minute land use decisions like the Tewin development, and missives from senior city officials pointing to “unprecedented engagement” from the public.

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