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Calgary city council approves climate strategy

Calgary city councillors approved the controversial climate strategy, after it had been put off for a month.

It was a primetime item at the Combined Meeting of Council on Tuesday, and councillors debated the need for action, budget direction and clarity of climate targets.

The strategy charts Calgary’s course along a path to net zero by 2050. When the strategy was initially laid out by administration one month ago, it came with an opaque explanation of an $87 billion cost to realize the strategy goals. That was one of the reasons for the request to delay.

Planning and Development GM Stuart Dalgleish, upon cost question, clarified that it included federal, provincial, municipal and private costs. Once this document is approved, Dalgleish said that it lays the groundwork for potential investments come budget time.

“We will absolutely have in front of you a clear proposal around what is achievable, and what we believe is affordable to be able to recommend to you so you can make that decision,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Mayor Jyoti Gondek also clarified that the strategy provides direction to each business unit for consideration when they build their budget.

“The strategy is intended to guide action plans from all of the various business units within the city to get us to a more sustainable, greener, cleaner future,” she said.

Members of the Calgary Climate Hub and the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good sang “Give Earth a Chance” in front of the Calgary Municipal Building on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Coun. Terry Wong said citizens were concerned the $87 billion cost would be shouldered by Calgary taxpayers. It was a trope widely misrepresented by social media commentators against the climate strategy.

“That number was not a representation of the total cost of the city, but rather is inclusive costs of the city as well as private enterprise and individual property owners,” Wong said.

Debate: Costs, implementation, adaptation, measurement

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp was concerned that we didn’t have those costs – whatever they were – outlined for taxpayers before approving the strategy. She wanted to see the costs upfront, along with how the strategy will be implemented and then measured.

“I feel like we’re rushing a really good thing without having all the details,” she said.

Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness felt this strategy reiterated many of the climate goals outlined in the 2018 climate plan.

Administration said the mitigation strategy hasn’t changed substantially aside from new targets and achieving net zero.

The biggest changes have been made in adaptation, emissions reduction, new buildings and development and retrofits.

Coun. Jasmine Mian said that ultimately the pace of change and evolution of the strategy will be determined by this council and future ones. She said inevitably, all money put towards the implementation must be approved by council.

She said it’s impossible to imagine what a low-carbon future looks like.

“That change will happen whether we’re intentional about it or not,” she said.  

“And I think the strategy is really just the beginning of an intentional path forward.”

Not supporting the strategy isn’t going to save the city from the climate debate inertia, Mian said.

“I think it will just simply set us up to be less prepared than we might otherwise be in the face of a lot of change,” Mian said.

Coun. Wong, who brought forth the amended recommendations, said many council questions would be answered in due time.

“These projects will always go through what we call progressive elaboration,” he said in his close.

“It’s the permission to start moving forward toward the intent.”