city of edmonton emissions reduction graphic

How Can Edmonton Stay Within Its Carbon Budget for a 1.5 Degree Future?

The most optimistic scenario for mitigating climate change is to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this, though, the world would need to undergo “unprecedented changes“, and Edmonton would need to cut its emissions by 80% in the next 10 years to do its part. As I discussed here, we have 155,000,000 tonnes of carbon equivalent left in our carbon budget, and Edmontonians emit 55,000 tonnes every day.

In August of this year, administration put forth a report that shows the scope of the challenge. Here’s their first pass at what it would take to make major gains in reducing our emissions ( it doesn’t actually reduce our emissions to the needed 3 tonnes/person by 2030):

Here are the above “wedges” in table form:

people won’t notice Only grumps/haters will notice (due to cost or scale of change) everyone will notice (due to cost or scale of change)
Transportation Marketing Solar PV Ground Mt Car Free Zones
Electrify Commercial Vehicles Energy Storage Solar PV Rooftop
Electrify Municipal Fleet Land Use Intensification Retrofit Residential Houses
Improve Industry Efficiency New Residential Net Zero Retrofit Commercial Buildings
Electrify Transit Expanded District Energy
New Commercial Buildings Net Zero Increase/Improve Cycling & Walking
Installation of heat pumps

*Cheaper Measures. (pay for themselves)
*Medium-costing measures. (pay for themselves, barely)
*Expensive measures. (don’t pay for themselves)

I organized the measures according to my opinion about their political palatability. And I have some issues with some of the assumptions baked into the report (Cycling and walking are very cheap if they come at the expense of car infrastructure, for example. And “transportation marketing” is a full-on waste of everyone’s time and money.). The point is, the solutions to our enormous problem are, well, enormous. The measures above represent a massive change in how we build, heat, electrify, and move around Edmonton.

But we would still have an amazingly rich life after making the climate-saving changes. We would still live better than the kings and queens of yesteryear, with hot showers, warm houses, unprecedented mobility, the most varied diets we’ve ever known, the longest, healthiest lives ever. The above changes are big on the one hand, but on the other they’re no big deal. In fact, many of them will increase our quality of life.

To do our part in keeping the world to 1.5 degrees of warming or less, we need to enact all of the above measures. All levels of government will have to do their part, and people will have to accept small changes to their lifestyles (I consider taking the bus downtown instead of driving to be a small change if the bus service is decent). I think that concerned citizens can make a big difference in making Edmonton’s turnaround a reality. We can lobby government, initiate innovative new projects, and engage with businesses and organizations.

We can help make this change. You can help make this change. And Climate Action Edmonton will be there to help out.

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