Join Us For Our Summit: Cities Taking Rapid Climate Action Now

Enough talk! It’s time to act. Join us on Wednesday, November 3, on the sidelines of COP in Glasgow to explore how cities are quickly and effectively moving from planning to implementing climate action. Our Summit—Cities Taking Rapid Climate Action Now—will bring together urban climate action leaders to explore what more municipalities and local governments can do to accelerate climate action. To register to join us in-person or virtually, sign up for a ticket on eventbrite. More details about the event, including the speakers and schedule, are provided below.

Lunch and snacks will be provided to those attending in Glasgow. The event will end with a reception featuring special musical guests.

Summit Overview

As the impacts of climate change accelerate, cities must urgently move from declaring climate emergencies to taking climate action. Join us for a series of panel discussions and participatory problem-solving sessions in which we will hear from cities that have effectively moved from planning to implementation, as well as urban climate action experts from Sustainability Solutions Group and beyond. We will explore transformational moves, as well as creative and scalable solutions, including carbon budgets, rapid multi-building retrofits, and clean air zones. We will learn about what is effective and working, and discuss how to create an accelerated response to climate change at the local level.

A special focus of the Cities Taking Rapid Climate Action Now Summit will be 1,000 Cities for Carbon Freedom, a project and report focused on climate action best practices from UK Cities.

Summit Schedule and Speakers

Panel 1: Carbon Budgets: Accounting for A Net-Zero Future

Time and format: 11:00am UK time, in-person and live broadcast

Overview: This panel will explore how cities are using carbon budgets as an accountability mechanism and tool to align municipal and community actions with climate action goals. Come and gather insights into how you can implement a carbon budget in your community!

Speakers:

  • Andrea Fernandez, Director of Climate Planning, Finance, and Partnerships, C40
  • Yuill Herbert, Principal, SSG

Panel 2: Creative Solutions for Decarbonizing Transportation

Time and format: 12:00pm UK time, in-person and live broadcast

Overview: How can cities quickly and effectively decarbonize transportation? This session will explore novel solutions beyond electric vehicles and transit planning, such as Clean Air Zones, car shares, and decreasing last mile shipping emissions with electric cargo bikes.

Speakers:

  • Stephen Arnold, Head of Clean Air Zone, Birmingham City Council
  • Jack Skillen, Placeshaping Director, Team London Bridge
  • Luke Murphy, Head of the Environmental Justice Commission, The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Panel 3: Taking Retrofits to Scale

Time and format: 1:30pm UK time, in-person and live broadcast

Overview: In order to achieve net zero, cities must retrofit virtually all existing buildings for energy efficiency. This panel will explore novel approaches to retrofitting en masse and at scale, while keeping equity in mind.

Speakers:

  • Marianne Heaslip, Associate Principal, URBED
  • Michael McLaughlin, Digital Lead, HACT

Panel 4: Mobilizing Communities for a Just Transition

Time and format: 2:30pm UK time, in-person and live broadcast

Overview: Broad public support is key to climate action. In addition, local communities can invest in and help cities advance climate action. This session will examine how communities can get involved with climate action from planning through to implementation.

Speakers:

  • Dirk Vansintjan, President, European Federation of Citizen Energy Co-operatives
  • Jonathan Atkinson, Co-founder, Carbon Co-op

Session 5: Open Space – Participatory Discussion on Accelerating Climate Action

Time and format: 2:30pm UK time, in-person only

Overview: What is the best way for cities to rapidly decarbonize with the resources they have at hand? How can cities and local governments accelerate climate action in the climate emergency? Summit participants will be invited to propose topics for discussion in breakout sessions facilitated by the summit organizations. The outcome of this session will inform the development of a City Climate Action Handbook that documents the insights from the summit.

Closing Reception With Special Musical Guests

Time and format: 5:15pm – 7:00pm UK time, in-person only

 

Powerful Free Tool Helps Accelerate Climate Action

October 19, 2021 [Press Release] — As local-government leaders from across Canada gather online today for the annual FCM Sustainable Communities Conference, a national climate planning co-operative is offering them the information they need to kickstart climate action without paying consultants tens of thousands of dollars and waiting for many months.

As of today, every one of Canada’s 4,000+ cities, towns, and villages can access the Municipal Energy and Emissions Database (MEED) for a free community carbon-pollution profile that shows them where their greenhouse gas emissions originate and what they amount to. Once equipped with this critical info, a local government can apply for funding, or get straight to rolling out programs to regulate and/or incentivize climate solutions—such as building public EV charging stations or creating programs for building energy retrofits.

MEED is available at https://meed.info.

“Canada’s communities are on the front lines of the climate emergency, and while many of them are now responding with effective policy, many more don’t know where to start,” said Yuill Herbert, Co-founder and Principal of Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG), which developed MEED in partnership with whatIf? Technologies. “MEED is their ticket to ride. It shows them how much climate pollution their community is producing, so they can move straight to the critical work of reducing it.”

Though the lead sources of climate pollution are well known, local governments can’t design effective policy without knowing how much of it comes from where. To get those details, a municipality would typically hire a consultant to produce a custom comprehensive GHG inventory, which could cost up to $40,000 and take many months to complete.

MEED helps them cut to the chase, explains Marcus Williams, Senior Model Analyst and Principal of WhatIf? Technologies.

“Local governments have finite amounts of time, money, and expertise, and constituents and stakeholders are calling for action,” said Williams. “MEED gives them a decent snapshot of their climate pollution—it’s not meticulous but it is the crucial first step.”

Backgrounder: Questions and Answers About MEED

What is MEED?

MEED is an open-access database that provides a free climate-pollution profile for every community in Canada. Each profile includes a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, a list of where the pollution is coming from, and what it adds up to.

Why is it a big deal?

MEED is revolutionary. For the first time, with a couple of keystrokes, any one of Canada’s local governments can download an accurate summary of their community’s total climate pollution and a detailed breakdown of where it is coming from.

In this respect, it puts all Canadian communities—from the biggest cities to the smallest villages—on a level playing field. A climate pollution profile would otherwise cost a local government as much as $40,000 and could take up to a year to complete. This is a barrier for some communities and a bottleneck for others. MEED gives every government what it needs to get its climate response underway.

How would a community use it?

Local governments need a greenhouse gas emissions inventory as a first step to apply for funding for incentive programs, or launch them. Three things make a MEED inventory different:

  • It’s Free: MEED’s version is free, and a local government can use it to report to and/or apply for funding from, for example, the Global Covenant of Mayors, CDP, and/or the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners for Climate Protection program.
  • It’s Credible: It uses a globally recognized standard—the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC).
  • It’s Transparent: A local government can compare its emissions with those of a similar sized community elsewhere, and do so knowing it is comparing apples to apples.

How Does it Work?

MEED pulls publicly accessible data on population, households, dwelling units, employment, weather, and known large emitters. It then compiles the data and compares it with published federal energy and emissions reports. When MEED identifies a difference between the two, it refines its calculations until the results match.

What’s the catch?

With respect to limitations, the tool currently tabulates climate pollution by sector or fuel source, and includes transportation, buildings, and stationary energy sources. (Industry and agriculture, forestry, and land use emissions are coming soon.) The tool can’t access a community’s actual measured energy consumption, so it uses estimates. In most cases, the estimates are reasonable and “ballpark good enough” to start climate action.

How One City De-Polarized Climate Action

Since Mayor Don Iveson’s election in 2013, Edmonton has developed one of the most ambitious climate action plans in Canada. The City plans to double its population while achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and, to our knowledge, is the first municipality in North America to integrate a carbon budget into its official plan, setting a cap on how much the community can emit, ever.

Edmonton has also taken steps to galvanize global climate action. In 2018, Iveson had a summit with mayors from around the world that led to the Edmonton Declaration, a call-to-action for mayors to take urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Thousands of cities and authorities, including Indigenous groups, signed on.

“It’s recognition that we’re part of an international movement of local governments who’ve been leading on this for decades,” Iveson said.

Earlier this year, SSG had a chance to sit down with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and talk about his climate action legacy (Iveson steps down after the municipal election on October 18). We spoke to him about what motivates him to take action, why Edmonton developed a carbon budget, and how the City built public support for climate action.

“Public engagement is the most important dimension of this,” he told us, noting that the City invited young people to speak at meetings on climate change and help decrease divisions. Their presence “makes it hard for decision makers to play the division of wedge politics in front of kids who will suffer for that,” Iveson explained.

The City also created a citizens’ advisory committee of locals with relevant expertise who gave advice to the City and Council on their climate action plan, in addition to bringing together a Citizens’ Panel made up of a diverse and representative group of Edmontonians. The panel deliberated on how the City should respond to energy and climate challenges, and provided recommendations to the City.

Most of those skeptical of the science came around to supporting climate action, noting the economic and health benefits of climate action, such as stable electricity prices and cleaner air, Iveson explained. “We need to be anti-polarizers.”

Watch the full interview above.

How We Can Reduce Emissions by Changing How We Work 

Getting to net-zero requires changes in how we work and move. In organizations where the bulk of commuting takes place by car, transportation emissions can account for a significant portion of GHG emissions. This point was underscored by the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns in early  2020: by April 2020, daily emissions had dropped 17%, partly due to a decline in car use as many stopped travelling to and from work.

In the case of the Canadian government’s operations in the national capital, commuting by its 150,000 employees is the second largest contributor to operations emissions, totalling 138 kt CO2e in 2016. Most of these emissions result from employees driving to work.

 

Baseline emissions for the Government of Canada’s operations in the NCR, by sector and fuel. (Designer: Naomi Devine/SSG)

 

In a study for the Government of Canada, SSG, Rocky Mountain Institute, and whatIf? Technologies explored solutions to reduce commuting emissions in the National Capital Region (NCR) to net-zero by 2050. The project, Roadmap to Low-Carbon Operations in the National Capital Region, considered how the government could decrease commutes and make commuting less-fossil fuel intensive with public transit, cycling and walking infrastructure, and zero-emissions vehicles.

The impact could be significant. By 2050, transforming how government offices manage space and making it easy for employees to work from home could reduce emissions by 45 percent.

We found a policy enabling employees to work from home two days per week can make a significant dent in commuting emissions at little additional cost. Implementing an effective teleworking policy requires robust IT communications infrastructure to connect employees remotely. But the Government of Canada, like many organizations, already has an initiative underway to provide this infrastructure.

 

The influence of teleworking on commuting emissions tied to the Government of Canada’s operations in the National Capital Region. (Designer: Naomi Devine/SSG)

 

When combined with space modernization to enable employees to share desks or access co-working spaces, teleworking can reduce the floor area required by the workforce and, therefore, building emissions. At the same time, by offering employees access to co-working spaces in a variety of locations, the government can help reduce long-distance travel by enabling employees to work closer to where they live.

 

Possible future space needs for the Government of Canada’s operations in the NCR after modernization and teleworking, including a 12% buffer for the minimum required floor space. (Designer: Naomi Devine/SSG)

 

The number of employees who drive to work is influenced by the location of offices. For example, in comparison to a single-use campus in Kanata, an Ottawa suburb, a federal building in downtown Ottawa has higher rates of transit, walking, and cycling commuting.

The Roadmap recommends the government locate new developments in areas with good transit, walking, and cycling access or design multi-use, transit-based developments where employees and residents live, work, eat, and access services and recreation within their immediate neighborhood.

Of course, even with all these changes, some employees would have to drive. Parking incentives, such as eliminating all free-parking except for zero-emissions vehicles, as well as promoting carpooling could help drive those emissions down.

Changes to working life during the pandemic have demonstrated that the transformations recommended in the Roadmap are viable. As organizations look to bring employees back to the office or redevelop or create new office space, transforming the way employees use space and offering them the flexibility to work from home can push down workplace emissions.

For more insights on how to build a carbon-free future, sign up for the monthly SSG Newswire and updates from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free Buildings Team.

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Yuill Herbert is a co-founder and principal of the Sustainability Solutions Group, a climate planning consultancy that has designed climate action plans and community energy and emissions plans for more than 60 municipalities, encompassing over 30% of the Canadian population. He led the development of the Roadmap for Low-Carbon Operations in the National Capital Region. 

Erik Frenette has worked on energy models since 2011, with a focus on providing solutions to Canadian specific energy and climate change issues. He is a model analyst at whatIf? Technologies.

 

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