Edmonton

Cities will drive action on climate change, Edmonton council told ahead of international conference

Cities will play an integral role in curbing climate change in the coming years, Edmonton councillors heard at a special meeting Friday ahead of hosting an international conference next week.

'You’ve renewed my sense of urgency but also my sense of hope,' Mayor Don Iveson says

About 800 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton. (Google maps)

Cities will play an integral role in curbing climate change in the coming years, Edmonton councillors heard at a special meeting Friday ahead of hosting an international climate conference next week. 

Electric buses, public transportation, energy efficient buildings and reducing garbage are some of the initiatives that will drive change, councillors heard.

Council called the special meeting to get ready for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's three-day Cities and Climate Change Science Conference beginning March 5, when about 800 delegates from around the world are expected to attend.

"This is a huge opportunity for not just Edmonton, but for Alberta and Canada, to show our commitment to the world," Mayor Don Iveson said. 

'I think we can't overstate the importance of this event.' - Former Toronto mayor David Miller

Several delegates attended the meeting, including David Miller, former mayor of Toronto and CEO of World Wildlife Fund-Canada.

He stressed the importance of municipal leaders taking the lead on climate change.

"I think we can't overstate the importance of this event," Miller said, adding that it will give leaders a chance to ensure there's a "dialogue between science and cities."

Mark Watts with the group C40 Cities made a presentation to councillors and said we are "losing the battle" on climate change with emissions rising 60 per cent since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997. 
Mark Watts, second from right, tells councillors C40 Cities aims for 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030. (CBC)

Watts said Scandinavian cities are leading the change with a shift from cars to public transport, walking and cycling.

Oslo, Norway, aims to have 100 per cent renewable public transit by 2020 and is banning cars from central business districts, Watts told Edmonton councillors.

The C40 group advocates for cities around the world to function on 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

"Each city is going to find its own way. Our approach has been to give people alternatives to private automobile dependency, rather than say you cannot drive or congestion charges or anything like that," Watts said.

Coun. Scott McKeen wondered what council can do to convince climate change detractors in Edmonton that climate change is based on science. 
Mayor Don Iveson says Edmonton is working on better public transportation and investing in more electric buses and vehicles. (CBC)

Miller told councillors most Canadians understand the proof behind the weather trends.

However, he noted the number of people who believe in climate science is "a bit lower in Alberta," because traditionally it's a population of people making a living off of fossil fuels.

The city proposed stopping the pickup grass clippings and yard waste from the curbside starting in September as one way to improve the city's waste management.

Albertans produce more garbage per capita than any other province.

Iveson said Edmonton may have a plan on climate change, but "the hard part is implementation" and council will have to make some firm decisions to invest in more energy transition strategies. 

"You've renewed my sense of urgency but also my sense of hope," he told the delegates.

The Cities and Climate Change Science Conference is at the Shaw Conference Centre and will be live-streamed on Facebook. It will feature speakers offering updates on climate science and emerging solutions.  

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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