Blasted by critics for doing next to nothing to address climate change during their last term, councillors on Ottawa’s environment committee vowed Tuesday to set a more aggressive goal to reduce the city’s own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

If council doesn’t understand what’s happening, it can’t take serious action.– Diane Beckett, environmental advocate

The last time Ottawa took inventory of its GHG emissions was 2012, two years before the last municipal election.

“We don’t know if Ottawa’s emissions have gone up or down under your watch,” chided Angela Keller-Herzog of Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability.

The city’s current goal is simply to maintain the level of emissions measured in 2012. That target applies to all City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police Service facilities and vehicles.

During Tuesday’s meeting several councillors acknowledged they haven’t done enough on the climate file, and voted to try to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2024.

That new target must still be approved by city council.

‘The city is not taking climate change seriously’

The city is supposed to report on its own emissions every four years, and many critics say even that’s an inadequate measurement schedule — many cities report annually.

“I think that the city is not taking climate change seriously,” said climate advocate Diane Beckett. “It’s dragged its feet for years.”

She said the city should be reporting its own emissions annually.

“If council doesn’t understand what’s happening, it can’t take serious action,” Beckett said.

More data on the way

The city has hired a consultant to measure its emissions, and results are expected later this year according to Stephen Willis, the city’s manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development.

The report will be available after the next municipal election, in time for the new council to come up with a strategy to try to meet council’s environmental goals in 2019.

Willis expects the launch of the new Confederation Line will have a major impact on the city’s emissions because of the number of diesel buses the LRT system will replace. 



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