Calgary councillors vote to declare climate emergency

Attendees at the Calgary mayor's energy breakfast, (L to R) Avatar Innovations CEO Kevin Krausert, Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, pictured on Nov. 15, 2021. Adam Toy / Global News

Calgary councillors voted 13-2 in favour of declaring a climate emergency in the city on Monday night.

Councillors Sean Chu and Dan McLean were opposed.

Council spent hours debating the wording of the motion, with some councillors taking issue with the word “emergency.”

Mayor’s energy breakfast

Energy transition was on the menu during a breakfast between Calgary’s mayor, councillors and leaders from the energy industry.

The breakfast came hours before city council debated on declaring a climate emergency in Calgary.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek called the tone of the event with city and industry officials positive and upbeat.

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“The tone was definitely one around collaborating,” she said.

“As a municipal government, we are sometimes not as engaged on issues that have to do with the energy sector and I think it’s just by virtue of the fact that the federal and provincial governments have a lot more regulatory capacity. And so we are just starting out building this new relationship.”

Companies with voices at the Monday breakfast included Suncor, Shell, Enbridge, TC Energy, Imperial, Avatar Innovations and White Cap Resources. Other organizations included Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, the Explorers and Producers of Canada, Energy Futures Lab, Ecosystems at Sustainable Tech Canada and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance.

According to the mayor’s office, about half of council was in attendance.

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With many in the oil and gas industry already plotting pathways to net zero, council’s pending move to declare a climate emergency is catching up with industry.

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“I think the mayor has rightfully pointed out that now the city has an opportunity to catch up to industry, and there’s a lot of opportunity to collaborate together,” Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, told reporters.

“We have some expertise. They have tremendous leadership as a city. So I think it’s going to be a strong partnership going forward.”

Goodman said the municipal declaration of a climate emergency was about energy transition, adding he left the event aligned with the city.

“We know we have an emissions problem and we have to show to Canadians — but also our own investors — that we treat this seriously, which we do.”

Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal, who brought the motion for the declaration to council, said the dialogue between council and industry that began Monday morning contained some surprises for him.

“Something that I wasn’t aware of was how far ahead the industry is,” Dhaliwal said. “I come from oil and gas, I have seen some of this technology, I have worked on some of it. But hearing from Avatar, what they were telling us, it was like industries way ahead of us, which is great news.”

Avatar Innovations CEO & co-founder Kevin Krausert said he was focused on action, not what kind of language is used about the state of climate. He also said there hasn’t been a historic relationship between municipal leaders and the energy sector.

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“The reality is climate change is here. It’s undeniable and the city is going to have to take actions,” Krausert said Monday. “But also the reality is the parties and the companies most capable of decreasing emissions are the oil and gas companies working inside the city.”

Citing International Energy Agency figures that $2 trillion per year will be necessary for energy transition, Krausert said the city can do four things to help with the energy industry: open communication, pro-business regulations, support for emerging tech, and reinvigoration of downtown.

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“The energy transition is the single greatest economic opportunity facing Calgary,” Krausert said. “We are literally talking about rewiring and repowering the world.”

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Calgary Chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin said a declaration from city council of a climate emergency would be joining a list of more than 2,000 jurisdictions that have made the same pronouncements and unlocks the potential for investment in cleantech and energy transition within Calgary, saying there is “a lot of money on the sidelines.”

“It puts us on the map. It takes away some regulatory uncertainty. It takes away that perspective that we’re not committed and that people will look at us again in a different light.”

Yedlin said Calgary faces a “generational opportunity” akin to Silicon Valley and the energy industry has already taken a leadership role unlike other emission-intensive industries like cement, agriculture or steel.

Gondek hailed the work companies like Avatar were doing in the city, employing young professionals in “incredibly meaningful” work.

“That’s the type of talk we need about our city,” Gondek said. “That’s the brand. We are a centre for energy transition. We are a centre of excellence and how we get there. So those are the types of things we need to be talking about.”

– With files from Kaylen Small


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