Council looks to adapt to change: Making the right choices when it comes to Climate

Ottawa has seen first-hand the devastation changes to weather can have on our City; from power outages and risk of yearly floods.

I am pleased to say that without a doubt, my colleagues and I will push forward one of the most aggressive climate action plans a municipality has ever done. 

A plan does not resolve climate issues, but it does set key objectives which can significantly change the way the City plans development, transportation, transit, tree planting, water protection, purchasing and more.

On Oct. 28, 2020, Council will consider the final report for Energy Evolution: Ottawa’s Community Energy Transition Strategy. 

This is how we got here:

In January 2020, Council approved the Climate Change Master Plan (CCMP) and adopted new short, mid and long-term community targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 100 per cent by 2050 and corporate (the City organisation)targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 100 per cent by 2040. 

One hundred per cent.  Nothing short of perfect – isn’t that what Ottawa should always strive for? 

According to the staff report, the current model projects Ottawa’s emissions remain relatively flat for the next 30 years if nothing changes we will not reach our target to reduce emissions by 100 per cent by 2050. 

So in order to reach a 100 per cent scenario, we need to greatly reduce energy demand through conservation and efficiency. 

I honestly, think it’s time. 

It is not to say that everything in this plan is perfect – there are risks associated with funding sources, implementation, timelines (and how something like our current pandemic plays a role) – that can impact its success. 

But there are several simple things and take the right steps to ensure this City take climate change seriously. 

A part of that plan is the Energy Evolution, an energy and emissions model which includes a list of proposed projects. 

According to the report, to achieve the 100 per cent scenario, the model identifies the need to reduce energy demand significantly through conservation and efficiency.  We will be able to achieve these objectives with innovation and applying technology that is now available.  

Here are the tough changes that are required:

  1. All fossil fuels will have to be phased out. 
  2. Heating and transportation systems will have to be fully electrified or transition to zero-emission. 
  3. Waste heat utilization and renewable natural gas production will have to be added.
  4. Sufficient renewable electricity (mostly wind and solar) generation and electricity storage will be required to meet demand and offset emissions on the provincial grid.

There are 20 projects included in the strategy that, over the next five years (2020-2025), aims to accelerate the 100 per cent scenario. The projects cover the following areas: 

  • Land Use and Growth
  • Management Buildings (New and Existing)
  • Transportation 
  • Waste and Renewable Natural Gas 
  • Electricity 
  • Enablers (people/programs to help promote plan)

To look at the direction more closely, as we develop the City’s new official plan in land use and growth management, energy and climate mitigation measures must be central to these efforts.  Homes and transportation (to and from home) are the highest two elements that will enable to us to meet or risk failing on the required transformation. 

When we look at retrofitting buildings or building new, energy efficiency will be a top priority. 

The City can retrofit and renew its Municipal Buildings. Changes to the National Building Code to align with the Paris accord objective, that Canada signed on to, will be required to advance and meet energy resiliency targets.  The plan also set clear objectives as to where senior level of government need to amends acts to facilitate achieving it.

As Chair of the Board for the City’s largest landlord, Ottawa Community Housing, it’s essential to ensure greener building solutions. OCH is preparing for a recovery phase offering innovative greener housing solutions for the next decade. We are currently building the largest passive building in Canada.  All new projects will meet the thoughtful energy goals, consumption uses, as well as the passive house standard. The outcome offers a more comfortable living environment for tenants, significant savings to the bottom line and a remarkable reduction in our carbon footprint for this valuable public organisation.

As far as transportation projects go, strategies include zero emissions and electric options for City fleets and transit.  

As a member of the Climate Change Sponsors Group, I am pleased with how this plan was developed, and its strategy to implement – that to me is a crucial component – without proper implementation and follow-through, this, like all policies, becomes nothing more than ideas. And with Climate Change -that is not an option. 

Climate impacts are expensive,  it’s expensive for property owners (taxes, insurance, health), it’s expensive for governments (repair, replacement, staffing.)  Not meeting these ambitious goals is not a solution.  It will be tough to change the way investments are done.  We must protect the quality of life residents expect here in Ottawa and not setting a plan and achieving it will only raise risk, raise cost and make our communities less resilient. 

That is not an option.

After Council’s approval of the Energy Evolution: Ottawa’s Community Energy Transition Strategy, it is not a clear stretch to the finish line – but at least we know where to go to meet our targets.

The City can control its own emission reduction transformation, the community transformation will require support from all level of governments and continued advancement in research and innovation from those in the transportation and housing technologies.

Energy Evolution plan and the way forward includes you – the buy-in, and thoughtful investments, from all community members. 

Regardless of climate change impacts, many of the projects and plan are things that are good for the environment and good for our City.

As a Capital City, we take pride in being the first to achieve new and modern strategies.  Investing in a transformation of emission guiding public investments is the only choice to ensure our City is resilient.  Other communities have begun this shift, it has stimulated their economy, it has created local businesses and employment, and has made communities informed on climate solutions and investing differently in their communities (including their homes and transportation).

Energy Evolution Plan is vital, moving towards the future, including Ottawa. 

Here is the link to the City’s Energy Evolution Plan

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