Briefing Note: Calgary City Council Declares Climate Emergency – What Does This Mean for Calgary’s Construction Industry?
The City of Calgary remains among the last major Canadian cities to declare a climate emergency. Other cities that have declared include Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Climate emergency declarations have been made in the United States. Notably, Houston – the capital of the American energy industry – came up with a Climate Action Plan in 2020 that “aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meet the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and declare itself a leader of the global energy transition.”
Shortly after the October 18, 2021 Election, Mayor Jyoti Gondek announced that her first priority would be to declare a climate emergency at City Council.
During the recent election cycle, Mayor Gondek’s heavily featured elements of environmentalism, climate action and sustainable-city building. The platform included:
- Promoting durable construction materials as a measure that assists in addressing climate change. Mayor Gondek’s platform specifically states, “though the municipality lacks direct control over building standards, we must consider introducing programs that encourage durable building materials, such as siding that can withstand intense hail. The City of Calgary must also demonstrate leadership through the use of durable materials within its own facilities.”
- A call to action that states Calgary must achieve net-zero city-wide GHG emissions by 2050 and net-zero GHG emissions from municipally owned buildings and vehicles by 2035.
- Further committing to Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) – essentially, mixed-use, high-density building uses around transit stops.
- Encouraging transit projects like the Green Line LRT to reduce traffic demand off major highways such as Deerfoot Trail.
Existing Policy Context:
In 2018, the City of Calgary Council passed its Climate Resilience Strategy unanimously. Last year’s annual report on the strategy showed that greenhouse gas emissions at the City of Calgary had fallen less than a half a percentage point below 2005 levels and that the City is currently not on track to meet its goal of cutting emissions to 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.
A key component of the Climate Resiliency Strategy is its emphasis on design standards and practices, with specific Calls to Action on strategic planning and investment in land-use and transportation planning, transit, new design standards and practices, energy step codes, and retrofitting.
According to the City of Calgary, 62 percent of community-wide GHG emissions come from buildings, and 37 percent from transportation.
The City of Calgary’s climate goals are further complicated by the fact Calgary continues to grow. With a further emphasis on climate and environmentalism, the conversation needs to shift to growing Calgary safely and sustainably.
Potential Impacts on Industry:
The further development of new transit projects could potentially increase industry demand to construct new rail lines, stations, and more.
Environmental retrofitting of older buildings could create new jobs and opportunities for the local construction industry. The creation of new, sustainable City-owned buildings could trickle down to the private sector and result in new best practices, codes, and standards.
The existing Climate Resiliency Strategy calls to action include: collaborating with external partners to develop regionally-appropriate climate data to inform new design standards for City Infrastructure; improved energy code for buildings, and updated design guidelines and standards for City infrastructure to ensure resilience to extreme weather events and chronic climate change.
Analysis – Opportunities for our Local Construction Industry to Lead:
Should City Council declare a climate emergency on November 15, the conversation must shift towards building our City sustainability – together, with the input of our local construction industry.
For example, the Calgary Construction Association (CCA) has been very vocal in its support of the Green Line LRT project. The CCA recognizes that transit connectivity is essential and grants access to opportunity – providing further choices for where Calgarians can work, go to school, and live. Projects like the Green Line LRT are catalysts for jobs and opportunity – and we wish to ensure that jobs are contracted out to local companies – seeing the project built by Calgarians, for Calgarians.
Should the City of Calgary develop new material standards for new projects and existing buildings, our members provide a level of knowledge and expertise in this area that can be valuable for consideration.
Our national affiliate, the Canadian Construction Association, called for greater investment in sustainable infrastructure to build Canada’s clean economy. The Strength, Resilience, Sustainability report explores both the global and Canadian construction industries’ adaption measures to date and uses that insight to inform recommendations for how the industry can work alongside the government to accelerate progress in mitigating the impact of climate change on infrastructure.
The Canadian Construction Association developed a “best practices” guide for project owners, designers, and contractors to aid them in developing their understanding of climate risks and incorporating that information in the way projects are conceived, proposed, designed, and built.
For more information contact:
Director of Government Relations