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.
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 science. But 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.