Opinion: Calgary’s city budget needs climate action now

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Fiscally responsible climate action avoids more service cuts that have long-term consequences for our economy and our quality of life. In particular, council needs to ensure that the most vulnerable can continue to be productive members of society. Not everyone can work from home on a video call. We cannot allow the woman coming home from her late-night shift to be abandoned on a CTrain platform, waiting for a train that never comes. The family that can’t afford a private gym membership must continue to have access to safe and healthy recreation programs.

Beginning now, city council needs to take meaningful action to do its part to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and help our city withstand extreme weather events.

Fortunately, Calgary has a plan, adopted unanimously by city council in June 2018. The Climate Resilience Strategy embraces a wide range of climate mitigation and adaptation actions addressing buildings, energy systems, transportation, land use, waste, natural infrastructure and, most importantly, city leadership. Thanks to the city’s The Economics of Low-Carbon Development report, we also have a clear understanding of both the substantial carbon and financial savings our city can achieve.

In November, city council needs to strategically invest in making the Climate Resilience Strategy a reality. For our part, Calgarians need to tell council to put an inclusive climate strategy at the top of the list for every department within city administration. Planning and development must discourage new car-dependent subdivisions and encourage communities where walking and cycling are top priorities — a direction city administration estimates would save $16 billion in avoided capital costs. The Sustainable Building Policy must usher in net-zero buildings and meaningful enforcement. Transit must continue to be an affordable and practical option and managed as core infrastructure like water and roads. Our city-owned electric utility, Enmax, should lead the world in getting to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

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