The State of Climate Action, Edmonton, Alberta. Early 2021.

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(Flickr/ Nick Humphries)In 2018, the IPCC declared that the world has a remaining carbon budget of 420 billion tonnes for us to have a 67% chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It was a desperate last call by the world’s scientific community, and thankfully it provoked a reaction. 2019 was the most important year of climate action that the world has ever known, as people around the world rose up to demand that we meet the difficult yet achievable goals. Edmonton declared a climate emergency in 2019, and started developing an ambitious plan to stay withing its climate targets. So where are we at?

In short, we’re in a tight spot. Edmonton can still, just barely, live within our carbon budget.  Furthermore, we can do it while still maintaining our high quality of life. In fact, we can increase equity, biodiversity, clean air and clean water at the same time. Every tonne of CO2 that we avoid emitting is a victory, and we can make our communities stronger while we are at it.

Edmonton has taken some good steps towards our goals, but more needs to be done, and faster.

Edmonton’s Climate Moves, 2018 – 2020

Here’s a recap of what Edmonton has done on the climate change file:

  • 2018
    • Edmonton signs the Edmonton Declaration, a relatively obscure pledge signed by North American mayors. It commits Edmonton to take action in line with a 1.5 degree worldwide temperature increase.
    • Edmonton orders 40 electric buses.
  • 2019
    • Edmonton declares a climate emergency.
    • Edmonton releases “Getting To 1.5°C“, a high-level but realistic and solutions-oriented planning document. It outlines our remaining (as of January, 2019) carbon budget of 155,000,000 tonnes (155 Mtonnes). Without drastic change, we will exceed that budget in 2027 or so.
  •  2020
    • Edmonton city council cancels the very popular (to its 700 participants) and very hated (by wedge-issue councillors) $55,000/year e-bike rebate program.
    • Edmonton releases another climate change report. This one is somehow more vague than the one from 2019 after a year of work (?).
    • Edmonton eliminates parking minimums and adopts the City Plan, two progressive, climate-friendly moves that illustrate that climate change is an “everything, everywhere” kind of issue, and that there are many solutions to this deep, complex problem.

The above is not exhaustive, but it gives a quick overview of where we are. Although we’ve made some good moves, our official climate plan is pretty stalled out. Council took none of the “accelerated actions” put forth by administration in November of 2020. As we enter 2021, the climate change file is in need of some urgency and innovative thinking by the City of Edmonton. And this year is an election year, a time when administration goes into “risk hibernation”, avoiding anything out of the ordinary out of fear of the upcoming change in leadership.

This is the first post of a series that will outline what climate action Edmonton has promised, and what actions it needs to take, and when, to live up to its promises.

We are in a climate emergency, and we need action now. But first, what’s the scale of the problem, and in what areas can take the most effective climate actions? We’ll talk about that in our next post.