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Calgary climate strategy put off for one month

Debate on Calgary’s climate strategy was delayed one month, and some city councillors – and the mayor – wonder if that sends the wrong message.

The revised climate change strategy, which shows the roadmap to Calgary achieving net zero emissions by 2050, was first approved at Calgary’s Community Development Committee on May 30.

Questions have come up about the $87 billion price tag and other aspects of the 99-page plan, said Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong. Given two councillors weren’t going to be there to debate, it was best to postpone, he said.

“The question of the economics wasn’t very clear the other day. Were the questions we raised good questions? Yes,” Wong said.

Wong said he thought it was important for all council members to be at the debate. He and Coun. Courtney Walcott had to leave the meeting that afternoon.

While the costs of the plan through 2050 have come up, the savings highlighted in the plan haven’t seen the same spotlight.  

Calgary declared a climate emergency last year and some on council feel as though this just continues to show the city is dragging its feet on climate action.

“Having declared a climate emergency, every day that we move farther away from talking about proactive measures, I think that is symbolic,” said Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, who chaired the Community Development Committee meeting where the strategy passed.

When the postponement was debated, Coun. Penner said she made sure councillors had plenty of time to ask questions of admin and attend the committee meeting to debate the matter May 30.

“The challenge with deferring it until July 5 is that we are not acting as if this is an emergency, we are not acting as if this is a crisis,” she said.

Climate rally outside city hall

Dozens gathered outside Calgary city hall to show their support for the climate strategy.

Angela McIntyre with the Calgary Climate Hub said the postponement was tough, but she understood the rationale.

“We are disappointed that they’re not actually going to put forth the climate strategy for today, but we’re all here in support of it,” said McIntyre.

“If they’re delaying it because they need to make it a little bit more palatable for the regular Calgarians to understand that it’s not $87 billion from Calgarians’ pockets… not all of this money has to come through the municipal government, as it’s been portrayed in the media a little bit. So, if that’s what it takes to create some amendments around that, then we’re very happy that they’re taking this seriously.”

McIntyre said much of the funding would come from partnerships with provincial and federal governments, along with participation from the business community.

Mayor Gondek, who’s taking part in the Global Energy Show this week, said with all energy transition eyes on Calgary, this doesn’t set a great example.

“What message are we sending to the world, who’s here in our city watching us, to be leaders in energy transformation?” Mayor Gondek asked.  

“Well, the message that some of my colleagues sent today is, ‘meh, this can wait.’”

The mayor suggested that investor confidence is at risk should the city continue to delay the strategy.

Coun. Wong said that everyone around the world already sees Calgary as a global leader in the energy transition.

“They (other jurisdictions) will celebrate the fact that we have been on board for last six months and will continue to be,” he said.

“However, the due diligence that our public is expecting our council members to perform will also be there to ensure that, again, we are being very responsible, pragmatic and accountable in what we do.”

The matter will return to the July 5 combined meeting of council.