On November 3, 2022, the City of Edmonton released the first municipal carbon budget report in Canada. The report indicated that Edmonton is set to blow past its carbon budget of 176 million tonnes by 2037 and fall short of its target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Though this news is alarming, it’s promising that Edmonton has released a carbon budget at all. For the first time, residents of a Canadian municipality have access to current data on the climate impacts of municipal decisions. They can use that to hold the City accountable and municipal decision makers can use it to change course, which is exactly what a carbon budget is designed to do.
“The power of this carbon budget is it’s showing explicitly to council the type of decisions they’re going to have to make if they want to actually hit their GHG targets and satisfy all the other demands that they have to address,” explains SSG’s Yuill Herbert in the Globe and Mail.
Carbon budgets set a cap on how much greenhouse gas a community can emit—ever. In Edmonton, the community carbon budget is integrated into Edmonton’s City Plan. Starting this year, the City intends to report annually on the emissions expected to be generated as a result of its policy and infrastructure decisions in an annual carbon budget. City decision makers can use this information to decide whether or not to go forward with a project. The hope is for them to take emissions impacts as seriously as they do their finances.
The carbon budget is a useful tool to help Edmonton align its investments with its GHG targets. As this process has demonstrated, it is not a straightforward process.
Oslo’s budget is a powerful example. After the City pioneered a carbon budget in 2017 and integrated it into their operations, the carbon budgeting process sparked innovation across sectors and drastically shifted the City’s decisions.
While Oslo had originally planned to achieve net-zero emissions for their public transportation system by 2028, it is now set to achieve this milestone in 2023 with its entirely electric fleet of trams and buses. The City’s toll-ring system that levies a higher surcharge on fossil fuel burning cars has led to 82% of new cars bought in 2022 being electric.
Construction practices have also changed. Incentivized by requirements for emissions reporting for city contracts, developers have created the world’s first zero-emission construction sites.
At SSG, we are convinced that carbon budgeting processes have the potential to be a game changer for climate action. More and more communities are turning to them to spark change. Carbon budgets are under development in Halifax, Montreal, Durham Region, Ottawa, Toronto, and West Vancouver. We’re working on many of these projects and look forward to seeing how these communities use carbon budgeting data to transform their decisions.
To learn more about how SSG can support your community or organization with carbon budgeting, give us a shout via our contact form.