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EDMONTON CITY COUNCIL EMBRACES A ONCE IN A GENERATION OPPORTUNITY

On Monday April 19, Edmonton City Council voted to approve its revised Community Energy Transition Strategy (CETS). This plan was updated in response to a climate emergency Edmonton Council declared in 2019. It outlines a roadmap to a carbon neutral future with meaningful reduction targets and a commitment to regularly evaluating and reporting on the progress of its implementation (thanks to a well thought out motion from outgoing Councillor Ben Henderson!).

At its heart, the updated CETS is an economic development plan. In fact, immediately after the revised strategy was presented to the Executive Committee of Council on April 12, Edmonton’s Economic Action Plan was presented; a smart move by the Administration. Economy, energy and environment are inextricably linked. The City estimates an investment of $42 billion is required over 30 years to achieve a carbon neutral Edmonton. And the majority of these dollars are required in the first decade of the plan if the ambitious targets are to be achieved. This will require innovation and support for the emerging new economy.

It isn’t all about the cost, there is a promise of financial and societal returns. Supporting a low carbon transition creates economic opportunities. When fully implemented, Edmonton will be an even more prosperous and exciting place to live. In fact, one of the stakeholders that spoke at the meeting suggested the plan would create upwards of 650,000 new jobs by mid century, based on recent modelling.

The strategy points out that the burden of financing the energy transition is not on the City coffers alone. To that end, the timing of the strategy approval could not be better. With the federal budget focused on a green recovery, providing $17.6 billion for climate action, combined with a monumental shift in the priorities of global investors, low carbon financing and funding is queued up to flow into Edmonton. The federal government is signaling a massive effort to mobilize private capital by catalyzing innovation in Canada’s cleantech industries, green hydrogen and carbon capture technologies. Edmonton is a hotbed for all three.

The plan makes it clear that a low carbon future is not just for the wealthy or the elite. Edmonton’s strategy highlights the need to address energy poverty and societal inequity. Providing equitable access to the opportunities outlined in this plan will be essential to achieving the goals. The plan suggests no one should be left behind in the low carbon transformation, which is particularly important in a city and province that has built a big part of its prosperity on the development of the energy industry.

Implementing this plan will not be easy. Edmonton has outlined a comprehensive, clear pathway to get there. The key will be to ensure all City departments are marching to the same drum and that partners are engaged to facilitate the transition. The City cannot and should not do this alone. Civil society must also hold the City to account; ensuring the actual municipal budgets reflect the level of ambition in this plan and the targets and progress align with a fair share approach to carbon management. With federal funding now flowing to climate change action and private investors aligning with the need to achieve carbon neutrality, Edmonton City Council is set up for success. And, the Alberta Ecotrust Climate Innovation Fund is looking forward to working with the City and the greater community to realize the positive outcomes this strategy is trying to achieve.

 

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