Calgarians on the Hook for $1.84 Billion a Year

Jul 22, 2021

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Calgary is a proud energy hub. But lack of leadership on climate change will cost us. 

Calgarians have always experienced variable weather, but this variability is becoming increasingly extreme. Whether record-breaking heat waves, record-breaking cold snaps, or more frequent and more damaging hail storms, scientists have been warning for years that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and severity because of climate change. You don’t have to look far in Calgary to see the results – a drive around the Northeast shows the lingering damage of last year’s hailstorm.

There is a cost to inaction on climate change that far outweighs the price of action. Whether you hate or love carbon pricing, the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling means that it is here to stay. Calgary’s current total emissions output means we will be paying $1.84 billion a year before rebates by the time the federal carbon tax reaches $170 per tonne in 2030. The City of Calgary will be directly responsible for $125 million a year of that total – equivalent to an 8% property tax increase. That puts us on the hook for a likely tax increase or significant cuts to services. 

We cannot punt this problem down the road. These charges are coming whether we plan for them or not. We can reduce our liability, yet the current Council has taken little action. The City does not even report yearly on its greenhouse gas emissions, nor does it report which City departments are responsible for the most emissions. What I know is this: if you don’t measure it, good luck trying to improve it.  

Council has passed yet another emissions reduction target yet Councillors, including mayoral candidates Jeff Davison and Jyoti Gondek, have sat by while City Hall ambitions to reduce emissions have not been matched with the necessary resources to achieve them. This abdication of fiduciary duty is damning – spending far more time on one time expenses like the Event Centre instead of recurring costs which are far larger. If any City of Calgary department or corporation was making a $125 million loss there would be action. Yet as we see, the City of Calgary is sleep walking into a crisis of its own making. 

But all is not lost. We have the technological means to reduce our emissions and thereby reduce our collective annual $1.84 billion liability, and the City of Calgary’s $125 million yearly operational liability. To take meaningful action on climate change we need to back up these targets with real investment. Investing to reduce our emissions now will ultimately save hundreds of millions of dollars that will otherwise be owed in the future. 

I have a plan to provide this investment, creating 4,000 jobs by the end of the decade and ultimately generating a return to the city by financing improvements in our environmental performance. My plan has three prongs: 

First, Calgary Operations Emissions Utility Reduction – which will reduce the City of Calgary’s annual $125 million direct liability by spending $100 million to reduce emissions over 4 years while returning cost savings to fund the next round of investments. 

Second, ENMAX Net-Zero, which will require ENMAX to provide yearly updates and emissions projections for its 2030 70% cut targets, as well as producing a Net-Zero by 2045 transition plan so City Council can protect Calgarians’ investments.

Third, Calgary Climate Services - an arms-length company which will provide Calgarians with more tools to reduce their emissions, connecting people to emissions reductions assessors, subsidy programs, contractors, and providing $100 million low interest loans secured by property taxes for improvements to buildings’ energy performance over 4 years. 

The benefits are not only greenhouse gas emissions reductions and long-term cost savings. As these programs continue to 2030 and scale up, they will generate at least 4,000 jobs.  

We are at a crossroads. We can put our heads in the sand, and hope for the best, or we can plan for a recovery that creates a more sustainable future and saves Calgarians money. Calgary must step up, and create a recovery that provides new, long-lasting jobs and makes us a leader in climate action.