When it comes to Ottawa’s municipal election campaigns, climate change has never received as much attention as it has in this one.
The outgoing council declared a climate emergency in 2019, then issued a climate change master plan and forged a long list of ways to meet the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Council has financed only part of the first phase of the city’s “Energy Evolution”, a list of 20 projects to be completed by 2025. However, some of the top candidates for mayor are now promising to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency.
Catherine McKenney, who announced earlier this week that they would be working with the National Capital Commission and Parks Canada to designate the Greenbelt as a national urban park, promises the city will be carbon neutral by 2050, in line with the climate change master plan. from Ottawa.
Their climate change platform includes:
- Retrofitting city buildings through a partnership with Hydro Ottawa, with the city repaying the cost (with interest) over seven years.
- Encouraging “deep renovations” for homeowners by leveraging municipal and federal programs.
- Protect the green space and enlarge the tree canopy by 40 percent in the next ten years.
- Creating safe and walkable neighborhoods with cycling infrastructure and low-emission transport.
- Extending the life of the Trail Road landfill by diverting at least 70 percent of city waste.
- Investing up to $2 million annually to install hundreds of public charging stations for electric vehicles and e-bikes in the city, starting with a $1 million outlay in 2023. They would be purchased through a public tender.
- Implementation of a green roof regulation for large and small buildings.
- Drawing up a climate resilience plan.
Speaking Thursday in front of a pine forest in southern Ottawa that has been a target for development, McKenney expressed hope that their plan would serve as a “catalyst” for further climate investment.
“When we help you retrofit your home, that’s one way for homeowners to be part of the solution,” McKenney said.
“The city is not going to buy electric vehicles or electric bicycles for everyone, but if we invest in the infrastructure you need, the charging stations, then we free up those investments.”
All new buildings should be carbon neutral by 2030, McKenney said. As for city properties, McKenney said the goal was to retrofit 30 percent of major buildings such as arenas and recreation centers by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050.
The downtown councilor called it a “plan for all,” citing housing renovations and free transportation for young people as policies that would resonate across the city.
“We will make Ottawa a global leader in climate action,” McKenney said. “And the people who live here will also be climate leaders.”
As McKenney rolled out their environmental platform in phases this week, Mark Sutcliffe told CBC he released his plan a month ago to show he was serious about tackling climate change at the municipal level.
He pledges to work with Hydro Ottawa to install 200 electric vehicle charging stations and an additional 100 e-bike charging stations in the city. Taxpayers would not be out of pocket for the installation and Hydro Ottawa would recoup their costs with the revenues from the charging stations.
Sutcliffe also pledges to make $100 million in energy upgrades and retrofits to city buildings over four years, also in partnership with Hydro Ottawa, and to build new facilities to a zero-emission standard.
He compares his plan for city buildings with a home renovation.
“If you buy more energy-efficient appliances or install better windows, there’s an upfront cost, but your energy costs go down, so you’ll recoup those costs over time because you’re saving money on energy — which is better for the environment.” he said.
He would also plant a million trees over the next term, more than double what the city has planted in the past four years.
“These are all meaningful steps that will reduce emissions and save taxpayers money on energy in the long run,” he told CBC.
He said he should re-evaluate the climate change master plan to see how it aligns with his “comprehensive” plan.
Other parts of Sutcliffe’s climate platform include:
- Convert the city park to fully electric or hybrid vehicles by 2030 and encourage emergency services to use electric vehicles.
- Adopting “proven” zero-emission waste-to-energy systems, as opposed to installing a new landfill.
- Identifying “missing links” in the bicycle and pedestrian network to include them in the city’s long-term capital plan.
- Working with other levels of government to “incentivize” the city’s biggest private polluters to lower their carbon emissions.
- Accelerating District Heating Initiatives at LeBreton Flats, City Hall and County Courthouse
- Build robust disaster recovery plans to respond to extreme weather events and buy more generators for city buildings.
Other candidates share their ideas
Other candidates, meanwhile, have different ideas about climate change.
Mike Maguire, for example, says that Energy Evolution “will bankrupt the city.”
The plan would cost $57.4 billion, or $31.8 billion in today’s dollars, but the savings from those more efficient buildings and electric cars would start to offset costs from 2032, the city said.
However, the city does not expect local taxpayers to pick up the bill – the higher levels of government and private sector should do their part over many years.
Maguire advocates a newer form of nuclear power to power Ottawa and arranging public transportation so commuters can “leave their cars at home.”
Both Brandon Bay and Param Singh support the idea of 15-minute neighborhoods, where amenities are within a 15-minute walk of residents’ homes, as well as the city’s climate change master plan.
Bay also advocates transitioning to energy systems in the neighborhood, planting more fruit and nut trees, and installing more charging stations for electric vehicles. Singh says he will commit to the climate change master plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050, as well as replacing trees and green space lost to development.
Bob Chiarelli, who has stated that he will recommend that the city postpone its planned purchase of electric buses, will publish his climate plan later in the campaign.
Five mayoral candidates – Bay, Chiarelli, Nour Kadri, McKenney and Sutcliffe – have been invited to participate in a debate on the environment and climate justice at Centertown United Church on Sept. 28.
Election Day is set for October 24.