Two decades from now, people in Edmonton will breath a little easier if city council's ambitious new environmental policy meets its targets.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent by 2035, compared to 2005. They also want to lower energy use by 25 per cent per person.
The plan would see more electricity produced locally, more infill development, energy efficient homes, and a greater reliance on LRT for transportation.
"The most important thing that I think could change is that air quality would be a lot better in our city, which I know is a big concern for people," Mayor Don Iveson said.
The 20-year plan starts with reviewing the city's policies and launching education campaigns about how to become more energy efficient — things the mayor calls "low hanging fruit."
By 2018, the city plans to establish pilot projects, including incentives and subsidies, to encourage people to get on-board with emissions targets.
Coun. Bryan Anderson urged the city to look at ways to meet the targets without incentives, before resorting those measures.
"If you can get the market to buy in and get to the same place in the same time, why wouldn't you investigate the potential without providing incentives?" he said.
But other councillors opposed Anderson, and said the city can't put a price tag on its environmental ambitions.
"This is about cleaning up our environment, it's not about dollars," said Coun. Dave Loken.
Coun. Ben Henderson also spoke in favour of incentives.
"Ultimately, this is going to cost money." he said. "It's an investment."
The strategy proposes incentive programs for things such as green home renovations and solar-panel installation.
City managers said it would be impossible to accomplish their goals without incentives, but they would try to avoid them when possible.
The city estimates the program will cost about $124 million between 2016 and 2021.
The mayor will send a draft to the province and try to convince the government to partner with the city.
"They've got pots of money from their climate change and emissions management fund, they've got the resources to make a lot of these things successful," Iveson said. "I'd prefer to draw on those rather than property taxes to ultimately implement this kind of strategy."
Iveson said Edmonton will lead by example if necessary, but encouraged the province to battle its bad environmental reputation by partnering with the city.