Canada: Model Community Climate Mitigation Programs


Canada’s Climate Atlas affirms over 80% of Canadians live in cities and towns. This dense concentration of people, government, business, infrastructure, and economic resources makes cities a powerful source of resilience and resourcefulness in taking action on climate change.

A mid-size Canadian city that stands out for climate action is Ottawa. Their plan and reporting are concise, complete and easily readable for other communities to emulate. For example, goals to reduce emissions from the community (96%) are 43% by 2025, 68% by 2030, 96% by 2040 and 100% by 2050 based on 2012 levels. Corporate (4%) reduction goals are 30% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2040. By 2050, regional climate impacts are expected to include:

  • Increased heat extremes, less cold extremes, drought
  • Changing seasons – earlier spring, later fall, shorter winter, less snow
  • More precipitation (except in summer), increased rainfall in one day
  • More extreme weather events – ice/snow storms, tornadoes, droughts, wildfires

Ottawa’s Climate Change Master Plan (2020) identifies eight priority actions over 2020-2025. This includes a zero-emissions energy transition plan – Energy Evolution; climate resiliency strategy; climate lens on Official Plan, asset management, and capital projects; carbon budget; carbon sequestration; community action; and governance framework to mobilize the community.

As early as 2003, Ottawa had an Environmental Strategy and, by 2005, established the need for an air emissions base inventory and specific targets. A Renewable Energy Strategy (renamed Energy Evolution) was established within their 2015-2018 City Strategic Plan toward a 100% net zero plan for 2050. Outcomes for 100% involve 39 actions in five sectors: land use and growth management, buildings (new and existing) and transportation, waste and renewable natural gas, and electricity. The model projects the buildings and transportation sectors as roughly 75% of cumulative emission reductions from now until 2050—the remaining 25% from the other sectors.  Ottawa Council also approved a Climate Emergency in 2019.

Multiple City plans and strategies directly relate to Energy Evolution and greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) targets through the Official Plan and related master plans – i.e. Transportation Solid Waste, Alternative Energy Sources for Transit, Green Fleets, Urban Forest Management, and Parks and Greenspace Master Plan. Development involved more than six departments, 200 stakeholders and a Climate Change Council Sponsors Group. Other operational policies include Energy Conservation and Demand Management, Green Buildings, EV Charging Stations, and a Municipal Emergency Plan. In carrying out municipal duties, the City partners with Conservation Authorities, utilities, the National Capital Commission, the Community Housing Corporation, other government levels and the private sector.

Mitigation includes:

  • Reducing energy usage/emissions demand through conservation and efficiency
  • Increasing the supply of renewable energy through local and regional production
  • Prioritizing procurement of renewable energy (primarily wind, solar) generation and electricity storage to meet demand and offset provincial grid emissions, phase out of all fossil fuels
  • Heating and transportation systems nearly fully electrified for transition to zero

Adaptation includes:

  • Reducing public health risks and ensuring public safety, including vulnerable populations
  • Increasing the resiliency of infrastructure and buildings
  • Incorporating Incident Management System principles in emergency management
  • Protecting and enhancing the natural environment and promoting public preparedness

The following collectively account for roughly 80% of the emissions reductions required:

  • Electrifying personal vehicles
  • Retrofitting existing residential and commercial buildings
  • Diverting organic waste from landfills, creating renewable natural gas
  • Transitioning to zero emissions commercial fleets

An Energy Evolution 2023 update discusses each action and its progress or setbacks (with risk mitigation strategies and solutions to challenges) in a framework, identifying the scale of change and investment for targets to reduce emissions by 100% by 2050. The City has advanced many vital initiatives, i.e., a Climate Resiliency Strategy and a new Net Zero Municipal Building Project, and continues to advocate, leverage funding and encourage action. A third-party review of GGE inventory methodologies and data sources is underway to confirm accuracy, consistency and alignment with reporting practices, temporarily delaying 2021 and 2022 data sharing.

The report shows a 15% GGE reduction as of the 2020 calendar year and a 43% reduction in corporate emissions. If Ottawa is to meet its 2030 targets, emissions will need to decrease substantially and significantly accelerated action and investment are required. Staff believe the city is still on track for 2030 targets, given the reallocation of staff resources and prioritization of the most critical actions to advance climate change goals. Challenges are the scope and complexity of projects, competing priorities, regulatory barriers and authority limitations, supply chain issues, and new and emerging technologies. An external structure was recommended to ensure all levels of government, utilities, stakeholders, and the broader community can work together to effect change and develop joint solutions.

Contact Person: Jennifer Brown, Project Manager – Environmental Programs, Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development Department 613-580-2424 x27914,

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller


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