Climate change can be felt in Calgary, and around the world. In Alberta, we’re seeing more occasions of severe weather from hail, droughts, flooding and fires in the spring/summer months, to polar vortexes in the winter. These occurrences have caused extensive damage to homes, and property, have affected wildlife habitats, and created hardship for farmers. There will continue to be enormous financial, environmental and social costs for individuals, communities and governments (not to mention the impacts to natural environments).
So what can be done?
As a City, we need to have an evolving strategy. Climate resiliency strategies are meant to reduce our environmental footprint, and also protect us against the risks of adverse weather events. Ideally they help us as a community towards outcomes of better protection of the environment, less waste, and cost savings, whether that be through reduced energy costs or preventing costly damage repairs after severe weather.
Like many of the larger, long term challenges facing the city - there isn’t one magical solution, but rather a series of initiatives we can take on. Here are 11 ways the City of Calgary can strategically address climate change for the city as a whole:
- Plant more trees. Trees improve air quality, lower temperatures, help manage stormwater, increase property values and more. For every $1 invested in trees, cities typically see a $2-3 return on investment.
- Implement the PACE system (Property Assessed Clean Energy) or an equivalent Clean Energy Improvement program for both residential and commercial properties (note: this implementation is currently underway at the city as of Summer 2021, but it is important that work continues to be stewarded by council and city administration).
- Remove policy barriers to low-impact development. Low impact development is an alternative site design strategy that uses natural and engineered infiltration and storage techniques rather than conventional stormwater management that directs all stormwater to pipes. The City has had policies for over a decade encouraging low impact development. However when this has been attempted by developers, the city has asked that they provide the hard infrastructure (pipes) as well which creates duplicate infrastructure. This has occurred in a number of communities - unfortunately practice does not necessarily support policies.
- Introduce an EV charging station installation rebate program for multifamily housing communities (condominium corporations and purpose built rentals).
- Require a NetZero strategic plan from Enmax by Q2 2022 with identified milestones and targets, with an outcome of NetZero no later than 2045.
- Create an Energy Tracking and Conservation program for all City owned properties. For example, the City of Toronto implemented a similar plan, which generated $17 million in energy cost savings.
- Increase the frequency, efficiency and affordability of Calgary Transit (through the Green Line, frequency, route improvement and better connections) to make it a viable alternative to cars for Calgarians, particularly those travelling greater distances to work and school.
- Work with property owners/developers to create mixed use developments on underutilized or vacant parcels of land in established areas. This will add density while also making more efficient use of existing infrastructure. In a sense, this is like recycling existing space.
- Simplify city related requirements, approvals and fees for community led activation of greenspace including pollinator corridors, community gardens, natural playgrounds, and related events.
- Work with Administration to develop and implement a “Zero Waste” by 2030 strategy. This involves working with administration to develop a comprehensive waste reduction strategy which might include the banning of some materials (plastics) and a more comprehensive recycling and green waste program than what is currently available.
- Remove policy barriers to green home building/development incorporating alternative energy technologies like geothermal, solar, and more. Ensure the city is not requiring duplicate infrastructure making implementation cost prohibitive.
Climate change presents all of us with both challenges and opportunities. Effective climate resiliency strategies require residents, businesses and the City to commit to making change. While there may be some upfront investment needed, other cities have demonstrated that the economic return on investment can be significant, while also making strides towards better protecting the environment long term.