Why does Ottawa need a community energy transition strategy?

    Our climate is changing and we need to act fast to avoid the unmanageable impacts of climate change.

    Worldwide, scientists agree that fast-rising global temperatures have created a climate emergency. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC providing the scientific evidence for the need to limit global warming increases to 1.5ºC.

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and international scientific consensus, we have until 2030 to make significant change if average global temperature increase is to be limited to 1.5ºC. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that limiting global warming to 1.5ºC is possible but “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

    In response to the global climate emergency, the City has set ambitious targets to reduce Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions by 100 per cent by 2050. As the City’s community energy transition strategy, Energy Evolution sets out the framework for what it will take to achieve these targets and an understanding of the scale of action and investment required.

    Why did the City declare a climate emergency?

    City Council declared a climate emergency on April 24, 2019 for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems and our community from climate change.

    The declaration provided additional direction to staff for expanding work on the Climate Change Master Plan, Energy Evolution and Climate Resiliency Strategy.

    What are Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    Every year the City tracks the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by activities within the city boundaries. Everyday activities such as heating our homes, moving around the city and treating our solid waste and wastewater can all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

    In 2018, roughly 90 per cent of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions came from buildings and transportation. Most of these emissions came from natural gas used for space and water heating in our homes and businesses and from gasoline and diesel used to power our vehicles.

    The City also tracks greenhouse gas emissions from its own municipal operations, which in 2018 accounted for less than five per cent of Ottawa’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This includes emissions from transit, City vehicles, wastewater treatment, residential solid waste and City buildings. More than half of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from diesel which is primarily used to fuel transit vehicles.

    Read more about Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions.           

    What are the City’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets?

    On January 29, 2020, Ottawa City Council approved short, mid, and long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets based on 2012 levels:

    • Reduce emissions from the community by:
      • 43 per cent by 2025
      • 68 per cent by 2030
      • 96 per cent by 2040
      • 100 per cent by 2050

    • Reduce emissions from City operations by:
      • 30 per cent by 2025
      • 50 per cent by 2030
      • 100 per cent by 2040

    What impact has COVID-19 had on reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

    Efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 such as physical distancing, travel restrictions and working from home have reduced global greenhouse gas emissions. Although these reductions are significant, they are a small portion of what is necessary to mitigate climate change and are probably temporary. In the absence of economic stimulus geared to the green economy and other permanent measures most of the recent emission reductions are expected to return to pre-COVID levels.

    What is the City already doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

    Many City departments are involved in initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some examples include:

    • The first phase of the LRT which opened in September 2019 and replaced a 12.5 km stretch of the diesel bus rapid transit with low-carbon electric powered trains
    • A Green Fleet Plan which includes the ongoing purchasing of hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles for the City’s diverse fleet of vehicles
    • Installation of public electric vehicle charging stations on City property
    • A Green Building Policy that dictates that all new City buildings will be designed and delivered in accordance with industry energy efficiency standards
    • An energy reduction program to make energy efficiency improvements at City buildings and generate renewable energy

    Read more about the City’s climate change initiatives.

    What is the City doing to adapt to the impacts of climate change?

    While efforts to significantly lower our emissions are key to reducing the impacts of climate change, the City is also developing a climate resiliency strategy to build our ability to cope with change. The first step of this strategy was to understand how the climate will change. This was completed in June with the release of the Climate Projections for the National Capital Region.

    The climate projections are being used to assess risk and resiliency for all City services. We are looking at how climate change will impact our communities, health, infrastructure, economy and environment. We are also working with City departments to support their use of the projections in vulnerability and risk assessments for specific projects or programs.

    Then, we will assess the adequacy of our current adaptation measures, identify where and how Ottawa is vulnerable and prioritize actions to address these gaps. We will pay particular attention to people who may be more vulnerable to climate change. We will work with all City departments, including Ottawa Public Health, and build on other risk assessments for emergency planning and infrastructure. Find out more about the City’s Climate Resiliency Strategy.  

    What impact does the growth management strategy have on the ability to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets?

    In May, City Council approved the growth management strategy as part of the new Official Plan for the city’s growth and development to 2046. The approved growth scenario will achieve higher rates of intensification as well as some urban boundary expansion.

    The Energy Evolution model was not explicitly designed to assess land use or growth management strategies but to describe how Ottawa can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100 per cent by 2050. The model assumes that all the required actions to reach the target are held constant. In particular, meeting the electric vehicle targets in Energy Evolution should be a top priority. This is due to the following:

    • Car dependence is the most impacted by land use and the expansion of the urban boundary
    • Electrification of private vehicles makes up 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to meet the 100 per cent scenario