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Electric buses, carbon budget among latest emission-reducing tools in Calgary

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The City of Calgary says it won't meet its emission targets, and how the city is growing isn't helping. City council has greenlit a new approach. Adam MacVicar reports – Mar 30, 2021

The City of Calgary is not on track to meet its emission reduction targets if current city building practices continue as they have, according to a city report.

A third of emissions in Calgary is from vehicles, with the remaining amount coming from the city’s buildings and development.

In an effort to address the city’s climate change goals, city council has approved $250,000 in 2021 and $450,000 in 2022 from the Fiscal Stability Reserve for administration to develop the Growth and Development Climate Framework.

The funding got the final green light from councillors last week.

“We need to make it easier to do the right thing,” Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said Tuesday. “Ultimately, it will be less costly if we’re using less energy, so if we’re building new, let’s build it right.”

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Read more: ‘Enmax is the laggard’: Calgary climate advocates push for net-zero plan

According to administration, the framework is aimed at integrating emission reduction into the city planning processes, from strategic planning through to the construction stage.

Over the next year, city officials plan to engage with industry and development experts to build the regulations and policies to be included in the framework.

“We see the Growth and Development Climate Framework as that opportunity to help guide our community towards emissions reduction in the near as well as in the long-term future of our city,” city environment and climate manager Dick Ebersohn told Global News.

“If you look at a few of our local builders, they’ve already moved towards net-zero homes.”

The City of Calgary’s climate goal is an 80 per cent reduction in citywide emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

But new targets set out by the federal government in the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act require municipalities to prepare their communities to be net-zero ready by 2030.

“How do we work with our development industry? How do we work with the building industry? How do we get them ready to actually make this happen?” Ebersohn said.

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“These are the folks that bring the innovation to the table, and we want to extract that innovation and push that to the rest of the industry.”

According to the city, the intent is to guide city growth and development with what has reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to the impacts of severe weather and long-term climate conditions.

“Municipalities have already made some progress in terms of climate solutions implementation, but there’s still a lot to do to reach a net-zero carbon economy,” Vincent Morales, an analyst at the Pembina Institute, said.

“Getting to net zero is a challenging pathway and a lot needs to be done to be in line with such targets.”

Read more: What do Canada’s net-zero targets mean for Albertans?

Administration will also work on developing a carbon budget — a method for the city to calculate its share of emissions in an effort to remain below reduction targets.

A number of municipalities like Edmonton and Toronto have already implemented similar methods.

“We want to make sure that we’re using our greenhouse gases appropriately and that we’re reducing as quickly as possible so that we can do our part to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement targets,” said Joan Lawrence with the Calgary Climate Hub.

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“We have an ability to now evaluate where we’re at in terms of whether developments are going to help or hinder getting to those targets.”

An update to the city’s climate strategy is expected in 2022.

Calgary Transit exploring electric buses

Electric buses could be part of the Calgary Transit fleet in the near future as the city looks into ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Administration said work is underway to pilot a fleet of electric buses and is currently in search of a vendor for the buses and equipment.

The city already has a fleet of compressed natural gas-fueled buses and even constructed a new bus barn in the city’s northeast in 2019 with natural gas infrastructure on site.

Read more: $14.9B promised to Canadian cities for ‘major public transit projects’

“Technology around electric buses is also advancing,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told Global News. “We’re going to be testing those out as well, as we look at the future of our bus fleet as we transition away from diesel.”

While there is no set timeline in place to kickstart the pilot project, Nenshi said the decision to bring in more electric buses will come down to funding.

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“With funding from the federal government, we might see movement towards electric buses more quickly than our original time frame,” Nenshi said.

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