The Good in 2016 Review: The Year in Climate Change

2016 saw many urban-related climate action developments. This January, we’re taking a look at the good, the not so good, and what may be in store for 2017.

The Paris Agreement came into effect

At the end of 2015, nations at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) adopted The Paris Agreement, the outcome of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To come into legal force, the agreement had to be ratified (signed into legal force by each country’s government) by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions. The agreement has now been signed by 194 countries and ratified by 118, covering 80% of global emissions.

One of the key objectives of the Agreement is to limit global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, which would avoid the worst of projected climate change impacts.

For cities, ratification of the The Paris Agreement means there should be increased national climate change initiatives, as well as support for municipal corporate and community emissions reductions and renewable energy projects.

Further reading

Interested in tracking the Paris Agreement?

Analysis of the Paris Agreement

The City of Toronto made major climate action moves

Toronto has adopted the ambitious and exciting goal of reducing emissions 80% below 1990 levels (or 17,600,000 tonnes per year) by 2050. The TransformTO project was undertaken to achieve this goal. It is a collaborative project co-led by the City of Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund. TransformTO is informed by community engagements and robust technical scenario modelling, aiming to understand what the most emissions, energy and cost-effective carbon reduction strategies are for the city. The results will generate a long-term climate strategy that updates Toronto’s existing Climate Action Plan.

SSG is leading the high profile energy and emissions quantification project for TransformTO. The modelling aspects of the project include developing an action plan for reaching the City’s 2020 GHG reduction target, and a decision-support framework focused on achieving Toronto’s reduction target, which aligns with the Province’s reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Phase 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.

Phase 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.

Further reading:

Most of Canada adopted a Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

The Prime Minister and First Ministers of eight provinces (Manitoba and Saskatchewan declined to participate) and three territories agreed to a national framework for climate change and clean growth in 2016.  

A national price on carbon will be implemented as a key part of the framework. It will be $10 per tonne of emissions starting in 2018, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022. The federal government will impose a carbon tax on those provinces that do not enact their own.

The first ministers also agreed to:

  • Phase out coal-fired power by 2030;
  • Provide 90% of power in Canada from clean energy sources in just over a decade;
  • Reduce methane in the oil and gas sector;
  • Protect the carbon stored in ecological areas (forests, wetlands, farmland);
  • Improve building codes to advance energy efficiency; and
  • Deliver annual progress reports on implementation.

Further reading:

The world continues to heat up

While the Paris Agreement aims to enable warming to a limit of 1.5 degrees, the world got a glimpse of what that would look like in 2016. Climate Central reported that: “the average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C, essentially equaling the 1.5°C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December.

Further reading:

What might be in store for 2017?

Despite international agreements and national intentions, many recognize the slow pace of action inherent at these scales. Here in Canada, a focus on provincial and local government climate action will be essential to the success of the newly adopted national framework, and other efforts. Coalitions of municipalities have developed from this recognition, both nationally and internationally. Municipalities can access coalitions such as these for support on urban planning and climate action:

There is much to look forward to and participate in for 2017. To keep you in the loop, we suggest: