Cities taking lead role on climate change, Edmonton mayor says

Cities and municipalities will lead the charge in tackling global climate change, Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday as Edmonton unveiled its community partners ahead of an international climate conference in March.

Edmonton is hosting the inaugural Cities and Climate Change Science Conference March 5-7

Floods and forest fires are the biggest threat to the Edmonton region, Mayor Don Iveson says. (Kathy Brower )

Cities and municipalities will lead the charge in tackling global climate change, Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday as Edmonton unveiled its community partners ahead of an international climate conference in March.  

The city will host a first-of-its-kind Cities and Climate Change Science Conference March 5-7, co-sponsored by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Speaking at the Shaw Conference Centre Tuesday, Iveson said the upcoming climate change event be a chance to show leadership on a local level.

Mayor Don Iveson said municipal governments are working with local groups to become more sustainable. (CBC)

"As nation-states can squabble about whether they're committed to this or not," Iveson said. "We see mayors around the world working together with their communities and with their business leaders from the bottom up to tackle these global challenges." 

Edmonton is expecting some 800 international visitors to the conference.

Before it starts, the city is hosting several community events, including lectures, art exhibits and science fairs in its Change for Climate Community series.

The series includes a panel discussion at the Art Gallery of Alberta with University of Alberta professors on March 1, a MacEwan University student art exhibition at Allard Hall from March 1-8, and a University of Alberta student art exhibition at Rutherford Library, March 1-22.

"Art plays an important role in challenging people to think, to bring people together and to engage public in different ways than other language can," said U of A professor Sean Caulfield, who's coordinating the art events.  

Brad Fehr's painting Red Eye shows a depiction of the Fort McMurray fires in 2016. His work will be part of the University of Alberta student exhibition at the Shaw Conference Centre in March. (CBC)

Brad Fehr, an alumni from the U of A's department of art and design, will have his work displayed during the conference and then later at the Rutherford Library. 

Fehr used dash-cam imagery that was circulating during the Fort McMurray fires to illustrate themes relevant to climate change and "to talk about climate change and the social and economic realities of it and sort of how we're finding our way through it in the midst of increasing environmental disaster," he said. 

The biggest threat

The biggest climate change-related threat to Edmonton is serious storms, Iveson said.

He said so far the city is looking at spending at least $2.5 billion to upgrade its drainage system.

"If we want to deal with the storms that could hit us in the future with a warmer climate and more extreme storm events, then that bill climbs to billions more," he said.

Iveson said conference attendees will discuss municipal solid waste, public transit and the building sector. He said Edmonton has many "green, high performing buildings."

New city-owned buildings are built to meet a minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard, according to the city's website.

"This conference will give an opportunity to show that Alberta and Edmonton climate credentials are real, and that while we produce hydrocarbon resources at the same time, we're doing so with sustainability in mind," Iveson said