‘We’re just trying to do our part’: Calgary city council votes ‘yes’ on climate strategy

After heated debate centered around the high cost of the plan, Calgary city council has voted to adopt its $87-billion strategy to tackle climate change.

Climate groups rallied outside City Hall on Tuesday, demanding councillors vote ‘yes’ on the strategy for Calgary to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Dan McLean, Ward 13 city councilor, was one of three who voted against adopting the plan.

“Economic issues, that’s my main concern. We all care about the environment, but at what cost? So this is a pretty ambitious plan. $87/88 billion, what is that going to cost the average Calgarian?” McLean said.

“We already have so much high inflation — cost of living. So can we add any more taxes — is there any appetite for more taxes on that? I don’t think so.”

Ward 7 Councillor Terry Wong, who voted in favour of adopting the strategy, says the cost is largely misunderstood.

“Last time we spoke … going back to a previous council meeting when we delayed it, at that time, a lot of people were concerned about the expression of the $87-billion number, as being placed on the burdens on the shoulders of all taxpayers,” Wong said. “That number was not a representation of the total costs of the city, but rather as an inclusive cost of the city, as well as private enterprise and individual property owners.”

Related video: Climate change groups call on council to vote ‘yes’ on $87B strategy

He adds the people in his riding share McLean’s financial worries.

“Most people are just concerned about ‘what does it mean to our pocketbook?’ And that is, I think, a legitimate question to be asked,” Wong said.

In 2021, the City of Calgary joined more than 2,000 international and Canadian jurisdictions to express their commitment to address climate change.

Dr. Beth Stovell with the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good was at the rally outside City Hall, and says it will ultimately cost Calgary more not to address the climate problem.

“This would include something like if you decided to get an electric car, that would be part of that number and it also doesn’t fully see the other side which is how much climate change actually costs us,” she said. “So, if we think about the cost to how much we spend ratio, it’s actually good for our economy, rather than bad for our economy to do this.”

Rob Tremblay, co-chair of the Calgary Climate Hub, was also at the rally, and adds adopting this strategy is important for the future of the city.

“It’s about, for sure, combatting climate change, but it’s also about future prosperity for Calgary, so it’s really important that council knows that Calgarians are behind this, and that Calgarians support this strategy,” Tremblay said.

READ MORE: Calgary climate change plan discussion postponed

Mayor Jyoti Gondek is a vocal proponent of climate action in Calgary. She says the city has several policies regarding the creation of a sustainable future, adding the climate strategy is intended to consolidate various plans into one.

“There are dollars that will need to be spent if we don’t get smarter about emissions and electrification, that’s indicated in the report as well, and frankly what were trying to do is keep up with oil sands companies and energy producers who have long had plans for pathways to net zero — we’re just trying to do our part,” Gondek said.

Gondek adds the committee report unveiled earlier this year that made waves by touting an $87-billion cost was mishandled.

“The thing about reports that come to committee is you can’t just change them when they come to council, that’s the same report that comes to council,” Gondek said.

“You don’t have the opportunity to fix the things that you missed the first time. I would say as a relatively new team that was given a mandate by a relatively new council, I think they missed the mark on the report. I mean you don’t lead with costs, you talk about why you’re doing this. That ‘why’ should have been the leading point in that document and it wasn’t. All of us have stated that, many times, if we could go back in time and rewrite this thing, I think everybody would.”

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