Climate emergency declaration could have Calgary aiming for net zero by 2050

Jyoti Gondek speaks to the media after being sworn-in as the new mayor of Calgary in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated to clarify Gondek’s history of support for declaring a climate emergency.

Calgary’s climate emergency declaration, which has been identified as a priority for newly-elected mayor Jyoti Gondek, targets net zero emissions for the City of Calgary by 2050.

The notice of motion is set to be delivered to the city’s executive committee on Tuesday.

During an interview on Global News Radio 770 CHQR Friday, Gondek said the declaration is to recognize that climate change has had an impact on Calgary, including the 2013 floods and last year’s hail storm in the northeast, which cost $1.5B — the fourth costliest natural disaster in Canada’s history

“We need to take this seriously on behalf of our citizens,” Gondek said. “There will be some actions that we outline in terms of making sure that the city is committed to electrifying our fleets and moving forward to greater energy efficiency in our buildings.”

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The climate emergency declaration aims to make climate change “a strategic priority” and accelerates the City of Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal to net zero by 2050.

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The current goal within the City of Calgary is to reduce 80 per cent of 2005 emissions by 2050.

While campaigning to become mayor, Gondek spoke about declaring a climate emergency in several interviews and during debates, though such a declaration was not part of her official platform.

The idea did receive some pushback from those who claimed it was an odd first priority, given Calgary’s stature in the global oil and gas sector.

Gondek said Friday that it is possible to recognize the impacts of climate change while touting leadership of oil and gas giants in a transitioning economy.

“I am interested in working with our energy sector who has actively committed to some of the most strict targets,” Gondek said Friday. “There’s many of our energy companies that have committed to net zero by 2050, and in conversation with them, they’re interested in getting that message out to the world to demonstrate that our production has transitioned over time and it continues to.”

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The notice of motion also calls on administration to develop strategic business plans and budgets across each city department to invest in and implement emissions reduction and climate risk reduction projects.

It also calls for the City of Calgary to work with civic partners and subsidiaries to get aligned with the net-zero by 2050 target.

In terms of funding, the climate emergency declaration also states the City of Calgary must advocate for funding from all orders of government to accelerate “immediate and near-term actions to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, while also reducing the risk of climate disasters to public built and natural infrastructure.

The federal government declared a climate emergency in 2019, and Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and the National Assembly of Quebec are among the jurisdictions that have all made similar declarations.

The notice of motion must first be debated at the executive committee on Tuesday before going to a debate in front of council as a whole.

The first full meeting of council is on Nov. 15.

with files from Adam Toy

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