Race to zero: Climate action in our city

I love a good race. It is all about getting to the finish line and rejoicing at how you got there. 

Right now, the City is in a critical race to zero. 

One of the most critical races globally, this race will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The City has entered this race with a commitment to reach the finish line by implementing a Climate Change Master Plan and Energy Evolution. 

This action plan targets greenhouse gas emissions. 

Through our Official Plan through resiliency, we have also made commitments to bring environmental, climate, and health considerations to the forefront of planning. 

To meet our Council-approved targets, the community will need to decrease emissions by five to six per cent each year over the next five to 10 years. 

So, what will it take to achieve Ottawa’s emission reduction targets?

The City has outlined areas where we can reduce, leading up to 2050, such as:

•              Electrify personal vehicles

•              Retrofit existing residential buildings

•              Divert organic waste from landfills and create renewable natural gas

•              Retrofit existing commercial buildings

•              Transition to zero-emission commercial fleets

The City’s new tree protection bylaw is already in place since January of 2022, which protects existing trees, requires developments to plan around trees or compensate accordingly – to retain, replace, and renew our urban forest canopy.  

For Sandy Hill, this has resulted in multiple trees being added to the community, both through development and replacement for diseased/removed trees. Tree planting occurs in the summer and fall. And there are ways you can help – the City offers a tree-in-trust program, which allows you to agree to plant a City-owned tree on your front lawn. This program is a great way to get involved on a community level. More information is available online at https://ottawa.ca/en/living-ottawa/environment-conservation-and-climate/trees-and-urban-forests/tree-planting#trees-trust. We also have a bank of ward 12 trees to plant in Sandy Hill so if you are looking for a tree (front or rear yard on your property reach out, we are here to help).

Additionally, the City is updating its Solid Waste Master Plan – to help guide how waste is managed for the next 30 years. The City has launched an engagement series for residents to offer input on what they think can help shape this plan, including a survey online at https://engage.ottawa.ca/solid-waste-master-plan.

The survey is available until May 8th. Help the City create best practices to divert waste in established urban neighbourhoods such as Sandy Hill, where there are many multi-residential buildings, where diversion programs could greatly influence our overall race to zero goals. 

Lastly, coming to Council this spring are new High-Performance Design Standards also known as Green Standards, for new construction which has been in place in the City of Toronto since 2006. These standards set measures to capture sustainable and resilient design for new buildings required in our new Official Plan. 

This includes reduction of energy use targets for developments and a timeline to achieve these measures.  We are working with Colleagues to increase the green checkpoints and requirements ahead of it’s final report approval expected in April, such as emerging label for new home buyers.  As Chair of Ottawa Community Housing board I am proud to see that OCH has taken the lead in Ottawa on building a greener housing portfolio, we have built a new passive house apartment at 811 Gladtsone and will have the largest passive house portfolio by end of 2022 with the addition of three news buildings at Mikinak street and more underway. 

As well, I introduced a motion the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management will consider to develop additional mitigation measures. These measures should include incentives for new and existing buildings. 

A better and greener building is good for our City, support our community and allows new home buyers certainty from future energy cost waves.

As with any race, the ultimate goal is to get to the finish line a winner. And with this particular race, the finish line is integral to how our future is shaped, Ottawa has faced directly with freeze/thaw cycles, flooding, tornadoes the impacts and costs of Climate Change.

One of the outstanding, but essential step is to ensure the Federal and Provincial governments update their respective building code standards to advance the construction of greener buildings. I intend to continue pushing for this step, as requirements, not just guidelines, allow for a better tomorrow. We will remain seconds off from our ultimate victory once we can have a net-zero standard within building codes across Canada.