Citizen Action Monitor

Calgary’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

No 131 Posted by fw, March 8, 2011

Thanks to the Pembina Institute for the heads-up on Calgary’s greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation plans, and for its own excellent related research report, Options for reducing GHG emission in Calgary: Research Report, February 24, 2011, which was commissioned by the city.

The executive summary of the Pembina report follows, but first here is a brief introduction to the goals and expected outcomes of  Calgary’s Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction (GHG) Plan:

In partnership with various community stakeholders, The City of Calgary is developing a strategic greenhouse gas plan that outlines the actions and roles needed to reduce emissions on a community-wide basis. The goal is to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Calgary through:

  • Conservation – reducing the amount of energy used
  • Efficiency – doing more with less energy
  • Low carbon energy sources – supporting local prosperity and resiliency

The plan will result in the following:

  • An action plan that defines roles and accountabilities
  • An implementation framework for The City and community partners, providing a structure for ongoing action toward reducing emissions
  • A system to measure and report community GHG emissions levels and targets

The research phase of the plan is complete and The City will begin working with the community in Spring 2011 on drafting the plan. The plan will be completed by November 2011.

Reductions in GHG emissions can have multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits including increasing energy efficiency, economic development, increased economic resilience, improved air quality, lower ecological footprint, and reduced climate impacts

Greenhouse gas emissions in Calgary

Calgary’s community GHG emissions include the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. These emissions are mostly a result of fossil fuel consumption, and the primary local sources are:

  • Vehicles and other outdoor equipment such as lawn mowers.
  • Electricity used for lights and appliances in homes and in industrial processes.
  • Natural gas for heating our homes and hot water, and for industrial use.

The other main source of GHG emissions in Calgary comes from the decomposition of organic waste in our landfills, which releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The sources of Calgary’s Community GHG emissions in 2005:

Calgary GHG Emissions 2005

The trend in greenhouse gas emissions in Calgary suggests a direct correlation between community GHG emissions and population growth.  Between 1990 and 2005, Calgary’s population increased from 692,885 to 956,078 – a growth rate of about 38 per cent, while GHG emissions have grown almost 32 per cent over this timeframe.  This relationship is not surprising as more people translates into more vehicles traveling more kilometers, and more homes and businesses requiring energy for heating, lighting and machinery operation.  In 2004, a decrease in emissions from 2003 was likely due to an unusually warm winter.

Pembina Institute’s Research Report

The report was compiled by the Pembina Institute based on the research presented in the appendix and from feedback from stakeholders. It identifies and assesses potential options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Calgary. It identifies areas for The City and other stakeholders to best focus and prioritize their resources individually and collaboratively in the development of Calgary’s Community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Plan, cited above.

The report also quantifies the potential impact of various opportunities and concludes that a combination of regulations, price signals, incentives and education are needed to meet the targets set by The City. An extensive technical appendix offers in-depth examination of 14 opportunities, including consumer energy conservation, vehicle efficiency, combined heat and power, solar power and landfill gas capture.

The Executive Summary

The City of Calgary, with support from Alberta Environment and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund, has commissioned this study to provide input to the development of a Community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Plan and other related initiatives.


The development of a Community GHG Reduction Plan for Calgary is motivated by the 2009-2011 Council Priority 2.2, which directs Administration to:

“Develop a multi-stakeholder plan and implementation strategy to reduce community-wide GHG emissions in support of imagineCALGARY’s long-term community goals.”

Another motivator is the Calgary Climate Change Accord, in which The City committed to creating a plan to reduce GHG emissions2 and promote low-carbon living for the community. The targets outlined in the Calgary Climate Change Accord for reducing corporate GHG emissions are:

  • 20% below 2005 levels by 2020
  • 80% below 2005 levels by 2050

The Accord also commits The City to pursuing parallel GHG reduction strategies for the community.

Potential benefits

The development of a Community GHG Reduction Plan also directly benefits the city in several other ways including improved air quality, economic development, and alignment with municipal, provincial and federal policy. Many of the approaches also have cost savings associated with them (e.g., through energy efficiency and conservation, public transit, walking or cycling, reduced infrastructure costs, idling reduction, or passive solar energy.)

Of course, if programs and policies are not designed or implemented well, efforts to reduce GHG emissions could also have certain disadvantages. Programs and policies that provide flexibility, competitiveness within the region and cost effectiveness were encouraged by some stakeholders.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to identify and assess potential options for reducing GHG emissions in Calgary in order to help identify areas for The City and other stakeholders to best focus and prioritize their resources individually and collaboratively.

Potential opportunities for reducing GHG emissions

The research began by identifying all of the opportunities for reducing urban GHG emissions that have been quantitatively shown to have a notable impact on city-wide emission levels. These opportunities can be grouped into eight different categories. While these categories provide an indication of the opportunities with the greatest potential, it is also necessary to integrate thinking and actions across the categories to maximize potential and avoid working at cross-purposes.

  1. Provincial electricity grid: Including large-scale wind farms, natural gas cogeneration, coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS), and nuclear power;
  2. Energy efficiency: Including buildings, vehicles, and electrical and industrial equipment;
  3. Solar heating and electricity: Including passive space heating, active water and air heating, and photovoltaics;
  4. Transportation mode shifting: Including land use and transportation planning and pricing;
  5. Combined heat and power generation (in-city);
  6. Behaviour changes (other than transportation mode shifting): Including driver training, feedback systems and other assistive technologies;
  7. Other fuel switching: Includes biofuels, natural gas vehicles, electric vehicles and ground source heat pumps: and
  8. Landfill gas capture.

Assessment findings

  • An assessment was completed to determine the potential of each of the options to reduce GHG emissions in Calgary. Findings demonstrates that most, if not all, of the options are required in order to meet the emissions reduction targets established by The City;
  • In order to achieve these emissions reduction potentials, the research indicates that a combination of regulations, price signals, incentives and education are needed in each of the areas. In many cases, regulations or permanent price signals, such as a price on carbon, are the ultimate policy end-goal required to meet the community targets, whereas education and incentives were identified to be useful tools to get to the end-goals;
  • If incentives and education are the only tools used to drive GHG emissions reduction in Calgary, The City’s GHG targets are not expected to be met;
  • The assessment also identifies emissions reduction options that reduce overall costs (i.e., energy efficiency, transit, walking, cycling, idling reduction and passive solar energy), or are currently cost competitive (i.e., large-scale wind power and natural gas cogeneration ). In other cases, there are a wide range of estimates regarding cost effectiveness (i.e., solar air and water heating, behaviour change programs, natural gas vehicles), while some are currently more expensive than conventional technologies (i.e., coal with CCS, nuclear power, photovoltaics and biofuels); and
  • Finally, the report concludes by summarizing the actions that were identified in the research as likely to be necessary in order to meet The City’s emissions reduction targets. These actions represent the end-goals required to be reached, whereas the Community GHG Reduction Plan itself will identify all of the steps required to reach these end-goals such as engagement of stakeholders, increasing the market penetration of supportive products and services (including information services), and building political support for price signals and regulations:

Summary of required actions

1. Provincial, federal, or municipal government (asterisk * indicates municipal responsibility)

  • Incent or require low carbon power generation in the province;
  • Incent and then regulate improved efficiencies of energy using products including:
    • building envelopes*
    • heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems*
    • lighting, appliances and electronics
    • water heating and fixtures*
    • industrial equipment
    • light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles
    • freight efficiency technologies (including road and rail)
  • Develop programs and innovative financing mechanisms for replacing existing products.*
  • Incent and then require energy labelling of buildings* and other energy-using products not currently labeled.
  • Incent and then require solar heating and PV on buildings, as well as passive solar heating design.*
  • Institute pay-as-you-drive insurance, road pricing* and / or fuel pricing.
  • Pilot and expand fleet efficiency and consumer feedback programs.*
  • Support and possibly require the expanded use of biofuels, natural gas vehicles, electric vehicles* and ground source heat pumps* (dependent on their forecasted ability to reduce emissions).
  • Incent or require emission reductions from large facilities.

2. Municipal or provincial government

  • Align land use and transportation planning and funding with the Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan. These plans include creating a more compact city, reducing the outward growth of the city, intensifying vacant and underused lands, supporting density with transit, walkable destinations, and cycling infrastructure. More compact development is also needed to support other opportunities such as district energy and reducing building energy demand.
  • Shift away from the provision of a minimum number or free parking spaces for new developments with access to transportation alternatives.
  • Support the development of large-scale combined heat and power within the city.
  • Support land use planning that maximizes passive solar heating for small buildings through appropriate lot orientation and consideration of features that create shading.
  • Increase the amount of landfill gas captured.

3. Private sector and individuals (with respect to electricity and heat generation, energy efficiency and conservation, transportation mode shifting, land development, fuel switching and waste reduction)

  • Develop, offer and purchase new products and services (including information services).
  • Replace existing products.
  • Label energy using products.
  • Change behaviour that affects energy consumption.
  • Support changes to the design of products, buildings, neighbourhoods and energy infrastructure.

Next step

This research report provides many different options for reducing GHG emissions in Calgary, but does not attempt to put these together into a strategy or plan. The purpose of this report is to provide a base of information from which further discussions can occur in order to develop a formal plan for reducing GHG emissions in Calgary. The next step in the community GHG planning process is just that: to develop a draft Community GHG Reduction Plan for The City of Calgary. A public consultation with the draft plan will occur prior to its submission to City Council

For the full story, read the report: Options for reducing GHG emission in Calgary: Research Report

Thanks again to the Pembina Institute for all that it does.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2011 by in climate change, community action, sustainability and tagged , , , .
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