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Mayors mobilizing on climate change as provinces mull ending programs

Edmonton skyline on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Edmonton skyline on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Edmonton is considering a “Plan B” if Jason Kenney’s UCP government pulls the plug on Energy Efficiency Alberta. The city wants to maintain its plan to assist home and business owners in making their properties more energy efficient.

David Dodge, the co-chair of the Edmonton energy transition advisory committee — a working group that is helping city staff stickhandle its way through emerging green technologies — said Edmonton has the one of highest carbon footprint of all major cities in Canada.

He said Edmonton currently emits 20 tonnes per capita because of where we are and what we do.

“We are the centre of industries that produce a lot of emissions. We are the most northern city in the western hemisphere and we get -37 C still in spite of climate change, and that requires a lot of energy.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s new energy efficiency program could save you cash

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Mayor Don Iveson has been running scenarios with other Canadian mayors about them banding together with federal funds.

“That’s a possibility,” he told reporters after Thursday’s meeting of executive committee. “We’ve only had general conversations about the fact in a number of provinces this is starting to become a question for us.”

READ MORE: Provinces vow to resist after new federal carbon tax takes effect

Provincial governments are rejecting the federal carbon tax. Alberta likely will be next, once Premier-designate Jason Kenney is sworn in at the end of the month.

“We’ve heard signals in the platform and from the election that Energy Efficiency Alberta might not continue, certainly in its current form,” Iveson said. “But we don’t know what that looks like. We don’t know if it’s going to be replaced with something else. We don’t know how well resourced any new agency might be. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”

READ MORE: Alberta Election Fact Check: myths and misconceptions of the carbon tax

Iveson conceded he has not raised the issue in his conversations over the past year with Kenney. But as New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan are considering legal action against the federal government, Iveson said using federally collected carbon taxes is one option.

“It opens up room for direct federal-municipal partnership, which we’re willing to explore should the need arise.”

“Federal funding is always an option,” said Mike Mellross, the city’s general supervisor of energy transition and utility supply. “When it was presented in its most recent budget there has been some dollars put towards climate change action so we’ll look at tapping into that wherever we can.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton becomes first Canadian city to lead ‘big’ energy program

He said Edmonton has had significant take-up in funding programs for things like installation of solar panels — more than any other Canadian city.

City councillors have asked for an updated report to come back in July on what the political lay of the land is on energy efficiency, and where Edmonton should go from there at that point.