Climate Action in Calgary

Going low carbon in an energy capital.

Calgary is the heart of Canada’s energy sector, but it’s also a city that is committed to climate action. The Calgary Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2050. 

Is this climate goal achievable? In a city of oil-and-gas headquarters, does it make sense economically?

In a March 2018 story in The Conversation Canada, University of Leeds research fellow Andrew Sudmant and professor of environmental policy Andy Gouldson explore these questions. They conclude that climate action will benefit Calgary environmentally and economically. In their story, How Canada’s Oil Capital Can Become a Climate Leader, they claim the City’s carbon-reduction goals are with in reach, not through dramatic changes, but through strategic decisions.

“Climate action is sometimes associated with massive, costly and futuristic investments … Going “low carbon” can also be achieved by a wide set of more prosaic actions that are often individually minor in their impact, but massive when considered collectively.”

- Andrew Sudmant, Research Fellow, University of Leeds
- Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Leeds

Sudmant and Gouldson suggest taking specific, practical actions citywide. These actions can reduce Calgary’s domestic and commercial carbon emissions. They’ll also save investors and homebuyers money. 

  • Upgrading to the highest efficiency lighting and appliances.
  • Installing insulation in roofs and walls.
  • Installing double- or triple-glazed windows. (New energy codes adopted in 2016 are already improving the energy efficiency of Canadian homes and small buildings.)
  • Introducing electric vehicles to the transport sector. 
  • Engaging in energy best practices and regular maintenance in the industrial sector.
  • Diverting waste to facilities where it can be used to generate heat and electricity.

The authors also recommend building new developments that prioritize density and urban connectivity. Reducing carbon emissions makes homes more livable (no wonder the majority of homebuyers consider energy efficiency a must-have feature), air quality better and offices more productive. It also creates jobs and stimulates the economy.

“Across the city, making sure new developments are built for density and urban connectivity could cut an additional five per cent of emissions, while reducing the Calgary’s required investment in new roads and utilities by almost $30 billion through 2050.”

- Andrew Sudmant, Research Fellow, University of Leeds
- Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Leeds

Sudmant and Gouldson point to land-use planning and building standards as key priorities in any emission-reduction plan. Because buildings typically last 40 years or longer, land use and building decisions have a long-term effect. If a high-emission development is constructed today, it will “lock in” those higher emissions for decades.

This all sounds wonderful in theory, but what will this type of change mean for Calgary? Is it compatible with Calgary’s economy and identity? According to Sudmant and Gouldson, it is. They believe pursuing low-carbon goals will require the types of skills and characteristics Calgary has always possessed.

“A low-carbon future will require construction and engineering know-how, access to capital and finance and the experience and ambition of policymakers who know that cities can, and must, change, to be prosperous – characteristics Calgary has in abundance.”

- Andrew Sudmant, Research Fellow, University of Leeds
- Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Leeds

Building a “greener” city is one of the goals of Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan. Incorporating the natural world into building and planning decisions is one way Calgary can work toward its emission-reduction goals. 

Published
March 29th, 2018
Updated: October 22nd, 2018


The City of Calgary plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Is this a realistic goal for an energy centre?


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