In The City’s first report  on Energy and Climate Change, the City of Guelph (1) reported an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is nothing to be proud of and instead should be a loud wake up call to all of us. While the rise is relatively small (0.02% kgCO2e (2) for 2019 compared to its’ level in 2018), it clearly is a poor way to reach 100% Renewable Energy (RE) and Net Zero Carbon by 2050 without any serious action to reduce it’s emissions.

The City has acknowledged that we are in a climate emergency and recently made a good decision to push the province to phase out natural gas burning for electricity generation. This all helps, but how seriously can we take a climate emergency acknowledgement without making every possible effort to reduce emissions in Guelph now. There is some contradiction between the saying and the actions. We can’t wait until 2050 to realize it’s too late, this is like seeing your kinder garden’s child report card first time when he/she turns to grade 12 instead of yearly basis.

There was some good news in the report in water services and in other areas. But on climate change, we run the risk of falling behind – before we even get started. 

Because of COVID-19, we fully expect the next City report (to be released later in 2021) to show a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, just like the rest of the economy. Will we be able to sustain that drop and keep reducing emissions fast enough? As a community we need to battle climate change aggressively on all fronts. Here is how the City can change the way we do it: 

1- Review the 2050 target date for Net Zero carbon and 100%RE
All of the science is telling us that 2050 is way too late. As we develop, we must also re-evaluate this final target and bring it closer – much closer – to today.

2- Develop mandatory interim climate change targets:
With only one deadline – 2050 – how can we tell whether we are progressing well or falling behind on our goals? We must urge the city to develop interim targets in 2 year increments. As we develop, we must review the new interim targets. This gives us a much better method of understanding how we are – or aren’t progressing.

3- Entrench climate change action into the Official Plan review.
All decisions that the city makes must include a ‘lens’ that ensures climate change is front and centre. With the City’s Official Plan now undergoing a review it must include a question like: ‘How will this decision help us reach our climate change goals?’ All decisions at all levels of city government must show how they are working towards our climate targets and not just give them ‘lip service’.

4- Empower City staff to bring their ideas forward to fight climate change
We have great staff working for us in many different departments at the city. Who better to understand the challenges and opportunities available to fast track fighting climate change efforts in their specific field of work. We can’t leave this to one small office to find all of the low hanging fruit of actions available to us and the city. We must empower all city staff to find their voice and help fight climate change everyday.
(1) Note that this report only reflects the emissions of the Corporation of the City of Guelph and not the broader community. The city must lead by example – this is a poor start at best.
(2) kgCO2e: There are more types of greenhouse gas emissions than just carbon dioxide (CO2).This term  demonstrates the impact of all greenhouse gases in one measure, expressed as:  equivalent (e) kilograms (kg) of CO2 emissions. 
Check out this story from Guelph Today featuring eMERGE Climate Target Initiative : 2050 ‘too late’ to eliminate city greenhouse gas emissions

About eMERGE

eMERGE fights climate change to build a healthier society. It does this by helping people reduce energy and water use.

Promoting smart behavior, policy and improved efficiency helps Guelph build a road map to achieve 100% renewable energy long before 2050. This has the added benefit of a healthier community and a more resilient local economy.