'There is an urgency to this': Edmonton councillors take step toward emissions reduction goal

Edmonton city councillors stopped short of declaring a climate emergency on Monday but voted in a favour of plan to update the city's Energy Transition Strategy. 

Current strategy would see Edmonton's carbon emissions reduced to 11 tonnes per person by 2035

Council chambers were nearly full Monday as councillor's discussed the city's Energy Transition Strategy at an executive committee Monday . (Don Iveson/Twitter)

Edmonton city councillors stopped short of declaring a climate emergency on Monday but voted in favour of a plan to update the city's Community Energy Transition Strategy. 

Council chambers were nearly full Monday during an executive committee meeting where councillors discussed the city's climate change goals and how the current strategy was falling well short of meeting the targets it has set to reduce emissions.

Mike Mellross, supervisor for the energy transition and utility supply, said the current strategy would see Edmonton's carbon emissions reduced to 11 tonnes per person by 2035. Edmonton currently emits about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year. 

Meeting the 1.5 C goal set by the city, it must reach three tonnes per person a year by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Edmonton signed on to the 1.5 C target in March 2018 when it hosted the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference.

Coun. Ben Henderson tabled a motion during Monday's public hearing that would direct administration to update and revise the Community Energy Transition Strategy. (CBC)

Coun. Ben Henderson put forward a motion, that got unanimous support, asking for a report that outlined steps the city can take to reach those targets.. 

"We looked at the carbon budget we have left in order to meet those targets and we blow through it in eight years if we stay on the current trajectory," Henderson said. "There's no way we would meet the target."

The report from administration is not expected until 2020 but Henderson hopes to find ways to start some of the work before the deadline.

"There were two choices that we had … one is to say 'we didn't really mean our goals' and I was really hoping that wasn't going to be the answer," Henderson said. "The other one is to go 'no, we really mean our goal, there is an urgency to this.'"

Maryann Borch was among the many people who attended Monday's meeting, which was open to the public. Though she lives outside the city, she is passionate about the environment and food sustainability. 

"The wheel of motion that happens and getting that wheel to change direction is something [that is] very hard," Borch said. "But, at this point I feel like they're not moving fast enough."

And Borch said she can't help but be left feeling jaded after years of activism. 

"I've been talking about changing light bulbs for 30 years. We don't have another 30 years to play around with."

The meeting left her feeling hopeful, Borch said, but she also wants to see the government do more to lead the way.

The motion will go before city council next week where it could be amended before making its way to city administration. 

The energy strategy team told council they can reallocate funding within their branch to cover the additional $300,000 and 2.5 staff positions that were requested to complete the work. 


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