Day 1 at the IPCC Cities & Climate Change Science Conference

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.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a much anticipated report on what it will take for the world to stay within 1.5 degrees later this year; this report include a chapter on the role of cities. This 1.5 degree report is expected to the basis of extensive discussion at the next COP later this year, in Poland. In 2024, the IPCC will also  prepare a special report specifically on cities.

One of the most remarkable speeches was from Aromar Revi of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and a lead author of the urban areas chapter of the upcoming IPCC report. He highlighted coal plants as stranded assets but said that the most signficant stranded assets are our cities, noting that economic activity, people’s homes, cultural centres in many great cities are at risk from sea level rise.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement (UNFCCC COP 21/CMP 11), countries identified Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which were promised emissions reductions, in the lead up to the conference. Three years after those commitments were agreed upon in Paris, we’re about 1 degree above the 1850-1900 mean, which is two thirds of the way to the 1.5C level and halfway to the 2 degree level. The current INDCs are the fast elevator to 2 degrees; the question now are: could we experience an overshoot, how big will that overshoot be and how long will it last? If we had started GHG emissions reductions seriously in Rio de Janeiro (in 2012), we may have had the gift of choice but now societies need to accelerate the transformation of our energy systems, land-use, cities and regions, governance and financing.

Ultimately though, Aromar points out, the transition is a question of behavioural and cultural change. And if this transformation occurs, the empire, he indicated, will strike back as this is the nature of the systems. In this case, Aromar drew on the example of Gandhi taking on the greatest empire of the world at the time as a source of hope and inspiration; he concluded that ultimately the objective is to transform not only the system but ourselves.

In discussing future climate impacts, a presenter pointed out that the climate of the prairie provinces will resemble that of Texas by 2050; imagine what Texas will look like. The impacts are Increased precipitation early in the growing season and then longer, hotter dryer growing season, creating a need for some form of water storage. The researcher has developed and costed a natural infrastructure system that will provide water storage and protect the City of Winnipeg from flooding. In 2011, the City of Winnipeg experienced a major 1 in a 300 year flood. To protect the City, berms were broken to allow water to spread onto farmland, which both failed to protect the city and caused a nearly $1 billion loss in agricultural activity. A subsequent drought resulted in a further $1 billion in crop losses. No existing civil infrastructure mechanism could both prevent the floods and store water from that “rainy season”. The proposed natural infrastructure system not only solves these problems but also provides a spider web of ancillary benefits. In order to implement this system, a new form of agency will be required to raise the $5 billion required for implementation and generate returns from the different forms of benefits delivered.

SSG at IPCC Cities & Climate Change Conference

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.

This conference is an important one for the international climate research community. It will bring together representatives from national, local (city) and regional governments, academia, international research organizations, as well as urban planning and climate change practitioners.

The goals of the conference are to:

  • identify research and knowledge gaps related to cities and climate change;
  • inspire regional and global research that will lead to peer-reviewed publications and scientific reports; and,
  • stimulate research on cities and climate change throughout the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report (AR6) cycle.

The conference’s outcomes are important because they will inform upcoming IPCC reports as well as support cities and citizens in building low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable cities, the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

If you can’t make it to Edmonton yourself, you can join the live webcast here and get informed by reading the pre-session documents, available here.

Follow SSG on Twitter.

Follow the Cities IPCC on Twitter.

Toronto City Council Unanimously Adopts TransformTO

View the TransformTO report.

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
SSG Contacts

Yuill Herbert

TransformTO Project Lead                    

1.250.213.9029

yuill@ssg.coop

Naomi Devine

SSG Communications Director

1.778.676.7041

naomi@ssg.coop

 

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.

False Creek at night. Photo by Naomi Devine

Join SSG at Renewable Cities. We’re throwing an afterparty you won’t want to miss!

SSG is pleased to support Renewable Cities, a global program of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, Canada. We are participating in their Global Learning Forum 2017: a solutions-focused dialogue on the transition to 100% renewable energy in cities. Leaders from local governments, the private sector, utilities, and the NGO and research communities will be in attendance and we look forward to connecting with everyone.

In celebration of our recent report, TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable & Prosperous Toronto – The Pathway to a Low Carbon Future, we are throwing an afterparty for all attendees of Renewable Cities. Join us for a social evening to connect, engage, and share your stories about how we are working to make cities renewable, one step at a time.

SSG members Jeremy Murphy, Julia Meyer-MacLeod, and Naomi Devine will be attending Renewable Cities. Be sure to connect with us and say hello at the event or at our afterparty.

Afterparty Details

Thursday, May 18, starting at 6:30 pm

The Belmont Bar, Vancouver BC
1006 Granville St

Paddling along Toronto's Waterfront

Project Update: TransformTO: High Profile Energy and Emissions Quantification for the City of Toronto

SSG is leading a high profile energy and emissions quantification project known as TransformTO. The modelling aspects of TransformTO include developing an action plan for reaching the City’s 2020 GHG reduction target, and a decision-support framework focused on achieving Toronto’s 2050 80×50 GHG reduction target, which aligns with the Province’s reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Both the short term and long term analysis involved quantifying measures and actions directly relevant to those indicated in Schedule 1.

Part 1 involved developing a GHG emissions baseline and Build-As-Planned (BAP) scenario to quantify the emissions reductions potentials of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions to the year 2050. The inventory and projection is undertaken according to the Global Protocol for Cities (GPC) using CityInSight, a spatially explicit energy, emissions and finance model developed by SSG and whatIf? Technologies. This process involved significant efforts in collecting, organizing, and interpreting data from public and private entities, including spatial geographical information (GIS) and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) data. A major analysis of City, Regional and Provincial policy was undertaken to develop assumptions and model a BAP scenario.

Part 2, currently underway, involves modelling the GHG emissions reduction potential of implementing a host of low carbon actions to meet the City’s target, and an analysis of the co-benefits and co-harms of these actions. A key focus has been evaluating the implications of land-use policy for key GHG emissions drivers such as transportation and buildings, and the opportunities associated with interventions such as transit and district energy.

Progress to date:

  • The Baseline & BAP reports are complete.
  • The 2020 plan is complete and has been approved by Council where it was sent to the budget committee.
  • A detailed research & analysis report looking at the of Co-benefits and Co-harms Associated with Low Carbon Actions has been produced.
  • We are currently completing the low carbon modelling for 2050 – modelling the impact of low carbon actions using our model, CityInSight.

We’ve launched a new model for district energy – Plan4DE (Plan for District Energy)

SSG and our partners are pleased to announce the launch of Plan4DE (Plan for district energy). Plan4DE is a cutting-edge tool that addresses one of urban planning’s most challenging and up and coming areas – energy planning. Designed for use by city planners, architects, and engineers, Plan4DE assesses the viability of district energy vs. individual building energy use, including full cost accounting comparisons.

Example uses include:

  • Evaluating development plans, particularly at the neighbourhood scale
  • Exploring alternative development scenarios (e.g. assessing different building density scenarios)
  • Scanning for DE potential in existing neighbourhoods by assessing existing building density, arrangement, and energy loads

Three versions of the model are available(basic, intermediate and advanced) to accommodate a range of knowledge and technical user experience. The advanced version is fully unlocked, to allow customisation. Guidebooks and webinars have also been created to provide guidance on the use of Plan4DE.

Want to take a closer look? Check out the recording of our introductory webinar here.

Never miss a Plan4DE update by signing up for our mailing list here.

Low carbon city.

SSG partners with CDP to support the transition to low carbon cities

SSG has partnered with CDP to support European cities in reporting on GHG emissions and climate risk. Both SSG and CDP recognise the critical role of cities in advancing a low carbon future.  

CDP has worked with over 300 cities globally to manage over 1.67 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. CDP’s cities program demonstrates that cities are better managing their risk and increasing resiliency through more than 4,800 activities to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“CDP has had a pivotal role in advancing climate action, firstly amongst corporations and now with cities. CDP’s work compliments SSG’s efforts to identify and implement low carbon pathways, using the lens of city planning”, says SSG Director Yuill Herbert.

SSG has fifteen years of experience working with cities, including undertaking GHG inventories using the GHG Protocol for Cities, performing emissions projections, and assessing emissions reductions strategies that consider financing, economic development, and quality of life. In Paris at COP21, SSG launched a new energy, emissions and finance model, CityInSight, designed to help cities evaluate and implement decarbonisation paths.

“SSG develops and implements comprehensive sustainability solutions for cities focused on climate action,” says Conor Riffle, Cities Director at CDP. “We are excited to welcome SSG on board as the first CDP cities consultancy partner for Europe and are confident they will continue to provide high quality services to cities responding to CDP.”

CDP offers a voluntary climate change reporting platform for city governments. The Cities program provides the world’s first global platform for municipal governments to disclose greenhouse gas emissions, climate change risks, and mitigation and adaptation strategies.  CDP collects and delivers materially relevant data for cities, the private sector, and other stakeholders.

Paddling along Toronto's Waterfront

SSG engaged to set direction on Toronto’s low carbon future.

The City of Toronto has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Reaching this goal will require major changes in the way that residents live, travel, work and consume goods and services.

TransformTO is a project that will engage Toronto residents and businesses in imagining the transformative changes needed to reach the goal, while at the same time improving public health, enhancing the local economy, and reducing social inequalities.

TransformTO cited SSG’s energy, emissions and climate change modelling expertise in engaging SSG to model scenarios that achieve the 80% target. SSG has partnered with whatIf Technologies and ARUP on this project. The team will assess a host of different emissions reduction strategies and actions that may be used to pursue the target, including new renewable energy production possibilities, energy efficiency programs, public transit options, bicycling infrastructure, neighbourhood development patterns, and solid and liquid waste diversion and treatment options.

SSG and partner whatIf Technologies will apply their cutting edge energy, emissions and finances model, CityInSight, to the task. The modelling process and outputs will contribute to establishing a decision-making framework for the City to use in identifying the best path to a low carbon future. The project will result in suggestions for key starting points and priority actions, summarized in two reports:

  • A short-term strategy (2017-2020) outlining the actions that will allow Toronto to meet its 30% emissions reduction by 2020 target through policy and programming.
  • A long-term (2020-2050) approach that will identify how to meet the 80% emissions reduction by 2050 target while generating a healthier, more prosperous, and equitable city.

SSG is excited to be working with Canada’s largest city on a project that will lead to amazing positive change, and one that will hopefully be a herald to other city sustainability planning projects.

SSG is helping towns and cities across Canada develop and implement strategies to address climate change. SSG has been actively involved in UN climate change negotiations with a particular focus on the role of cities, including most recently in Paris.  

Implementing Decarbonisation

How does SSG help cities evaluate and implement decarbonisation paths?

This year, SSG released an integrated energy, emissions and finance model, CityInSight, designed specifically to support cities in identifying and implementing low carbon or decarbonisation pathways.

As part of our series of webinars on this model, here the fourth in the series here.

Hosted by Yuill Herbert from SSG and Marcus Williams from whatif Technologies, they will describe the design of the model with an update of it’s application.
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..