Though the headlines on Montreal’s 2024 budget released in November focused on property tax hikes, it also included something more transformational: the City’s first climate budget (also known as a carbon budget).
The budget, which sets a cumulative cap on Montreal’s emissions out to 2050, is designed to act as an accountability tool for Montreal’s Plan Climat, a community climate action plan with key actions to reduce emissions for the whole island of Montreal. By requiring City Council and staff to consider climate change in all investment decisions, the budget has the potential to push climate action forward and deter spending decisions that increase climate pollution.
SSG modelled the impact of the City’s Plan Climat in order to illustrate the remaining emissions gap it will need to address with its climate budget, which is based on the maximum amount of greenhouse gas that can be emitted into the atmosphere globally to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, relative to pre-industrial temperatures.
The budget sets annual ceilings for Montreal’s community emissions. If more greenhouse gasses than the annual cap are emitted in one year, the City must take measures to reduce emissions in future years.
To be sure, sticking to this budget will be challenging. Edmonton, the first city in Canada to set a carbon budget, is off track. Even so, Edmonton’s 2022 municipal carbon budget report marked the first time residents of a Canadian community had access to current data on the climate impacts of municipal decisions—game-changing information that they can use to hold their government accountable and which city officials can use to get back on track to meeting their emissions targets.
In Oslo, which pioneered the carbon budget in 2017, the emissions cap has pushed the City to electrify its public transportation system much faster than originally planned. It also prompted stricter construction rules, leading to the world’s first zero-emissions construction sites.
Even with its challenges, the carbon budget is a transformational tool for holding city officials accountable and—in the best case—meeting and exceeding climate action goals.
To learn more about how SSG can support your community or organization with carbon budgeting, give us a shout via our contact page.