Like many other large cities in Canada, Vancouver declared a climate emergency in 2019. Its Climate Emergency Response soon followed, with six targets—or “Big Moves”—to tackle emissions related to transportation and transit, heating and hot water systems, buildings and new construction, and carbon sequestration for local ecosystem restoration.
The City of Oslo has embedded emissions reductions deeply into the mechanics of municipal operations. The Vice-Mayor of Oslo discussed her City’s carbon budget, which parallels the City’s financial budget. Departments are assigned responsibilities and are required to implement those responsibilities in order to achieve their targets of cutting emissions in half over 1990 levels by 2020 and becoming completely carbon neutral by 2030. This mechanism relies on the strongest tool the city has – the city budget process – and brings a new transparency to greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions planning, with an annual reporting process. Read more
The day started with the sun beaming in through a wall of glass looking out over Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River. The discourse on cities was hopeful- tinged with periods of critical thought and realism. Presenters, including the Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, talked about the need to track consumption-based GHG emissions; but the mechanisms that cities require to influence consumption of their citizens are both politically and legally limited. Many speakers talked about green jobs and low-carbon cities as engines of economic growth and development, while others reflected that economic development itself is the source of GHG emissions. Irrespective of the pathway forward, there is no question that the role of local governments and cities is gaining prominence and an increasing focus of UN agencies and other entities in the world; if cities can’t dramatically bend the curve, then there is no way that the world will achieve the necessary reductions of 1.5 degrees. Mayor Iveson emphasised this point with a story about UNFCCC COP 13 in indonesia; as a deputy mayor his option was to represent a non-profit organisation at a side event of a side event. Luckily, times have changed: urban areas are now a primary focus with an IPCC focussed conference on cities. Read more
SSG directors, Yuill Herbert, and Jeremy Murphy, will be in Edmonton at the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference: Fostering new scientific knowledge for cities based on science, practice and policy, this March 5-7th. Sustainability Solutions Group is proud to be a silver sponsor of this conference. Read more
Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) is pleased to announce that our latest report, TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable, Prosperous Toronto (Results of Modelling Greenhouse Gas Emissions to 2050), was adopted, unanimously, by Toronto City Council today.
TransformTO is a community-wide, cross-corporate initiative of the City of Toronto and The Toronto Atmospheric Fund. It was designed to engage residents, other stakeholders, experts, and all City operations in identifying ways to reduce Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 30 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050, against 1990 levels.
SSG and whatIf? Technologies worked with city staff, stakeholders and community members to develop a pathway to achieve 80% emissions reductions by 2050 using currently available technologies. The process involved the development of future scenarios, spatial modelling, analysis of co-benefits and co-harms for the scenarios as well as community input. Opportunities for collaborative and sustained emissions reduction efforts by the City of Toronto, the private sector, higher levels of government, and Toronto residents are included in the report.
“This project clearly demonstrates that a low carbon future for Toronto is viable using current technologies,” said SSG Director and project lead Yuill Herbert. “We also determined that such a future has many benefits to public health, stimulating local economic development and employment opportunities, and addressing poverty, if actions are thoughtfully executed.”
SSG’s and whatIf? Technologies’ CityInSight energy, emissions and finance model was key to the analysis. CityInSight incorporates the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), a standard that enables emissions comparability between cities globally. The model creates and compares land-use scenarios that assess varying considerations for transportation, building types and densities, energy use, energy production systems, liquid and solid waste production and treatments, infrastructure, and all associated costs and paybacks, in order to assess what emissions reduction actions are possible and what should be prioritized.
Two scenarios were defined for the project: Business as Planned (BAP) and Low Carbon Scenario (LCS). The BAP scenario explored projected energy and emissions levels for the city under current and planned policies and actions by municipal, provincial and federal governments. The LCS explored additional actions options that, if taken, will achieve Toronto’s emissions reduction targets.
Council’s adoption of the TransformTO report signals the ambition of Canada’s largest city in taking the lead on climate change mitigation through critical emissions reduction actions – actions that will also improve the quality of life of Toronto’s residents.
For more information on TransformTO, and to download the full report, please visit: ssg.coop/transformto
TransformTO Project Lead
SSG Communications Director
Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) is a climate change and sustainable communities consultancy with offices across Canada. We’re a cooperative of critical, creative thinkers who collaborate with cities, communities, and institutions to address some of society’s most pressing challenges: climate change, energy and emissions planning, sustainable development, public health, and democratic engagement. Over the past fifteen years we have worked with over 40 municipalities in Canada to help them build and plan for low-carbon, economically vibrant, and sustainable communities.
whatIf? Technologies was founded in 1989 by Robert Hoffman and Bert McInnis – to build upon their pioneering work in socio-economic modelling and simulation at Statistics Canada – and by software architect Michael Hoffman (current CEO). Over the last 25 years the firm has established itself as a leader in developing computer-based simulation models for strategic planning and scenario analysis. whatIf has successfully delivered modelling projects in urban and regional planning, energy systems, transportation, and long-term physical economic systems.
In conversations with new recruits, with potential clients, partners, press, we are often met with confused faces puzzled by our inability to limit SSG and our potential to one area of work, one sector, one job. In a description for UBC from a couple of years ago, Director Yuill Herbert charts our trajectory, why and how we do the work we do, why we compete on the threshold of constant change and innovation. All the while keeping our feet firmly on the ground in being held to account not only by our cooperative members but by the grassroots; the communities we work closely with and for. Meaningful change is nothing without their participation and education around the decisions that ultimately matter to them.
“Our task is to look at the world and see it whole”, EF Schumacher
“SSG was founded in 2001 on the basis that meaningful solutions to critical societal issues needed to overcome the silos and stovepipes that characterise scientific study, design professions and design practice- and we have applied the idea of whole systems to the areas in which we work- building, planning, strategy, research and policy. Our portfolio spans energy planning, water planning, green building, urban design, waste analysis, climate change mitigation and beyond to health planning, adaptation and transportation modelling. Our dedication to this approach is such that we have embedded collaboration in our organisational structure, incorporating as a workers co-operative. Read more
Our monthly newsletter on news and inspiration at the nexus of sustainability
FCM Guidebook for Brownfield Strategies makes top 5 resource for municipalities
The Brownfields Strategy Guidebook has been selected by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as one of their top five resources for municipalities in 2016. The guidebook is to inspire municipalities with plans to revive abandoned and contaminated spaces in their communities, with sustainability at it’s heart. These resources are designed to help municipalities learn and share from one another. Read more here.
Can you plan for good healthy communities?
SSG assembled a set of land use scenarios and their potential health outcomes as part of the District of Squamish’s Learning Lab – Exploring Health Tools for OCP Review Project. The purpose was to explore the potential impacts of different land use decisions on community health in the District using SSG’s new ModelHealth tool. Read more
The Brownfields Strategy Guidebook has been selected by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as one of their top five resources for municipalities in 2016.
SSG contributed to the Guidebook which provides guidance on how to design and implement an effective brownfield strategy. It is part of a series of guidebooks produced for the Green Municipal Fund’s Leadership program (LiBRe), which is structured around a best practices framework for becoming a municipal leader in brownfield renewal. The program supports participants’ progress through seven key steps to becoming a brownfield champion municipality. This guidebook provides an outline of different types of brownfield strategies and what they typically include, outlines best practices for successful brownfield strategy development, and offers guidance on selecting the right brownfield incentives for your municipality.
To read more and download the guide, visit the FCM website.
SSG and whatIf? technologies gave a preview of the new energy, GHG and finance model, CityInSight that will be officially launched at COP21 in Paris on 2nd December.
SSG has partnered with whatIf? Technologies, an international leader in simulation modelling, to increase the sophistication, scope and capabilities of GHGProof in a new model – CityInSight. CityInSight also incorporates the Global GHG Protocol for Cities, a GHG accounting framework launched as the new global standard by the World Resources Institute, ICLEI, C40, UN Habitat and others at the UN Conference of the Parties in Lima in 2014.
Here is the recording of the session and more details about and application of the model in our pilot City Moncton, will be published soon!
There will be another round of this webinar in January, so do attend if you have questions.