Measuring Calgary’s climate action
Calgary’s progress on climate action
Focusing on key community metrics is the first step to providing an update to Calgarians on our collective progress. It’s one way The City is showing leadership in advancing climate goals.
In the summer of 2024, a dashboard will be published on Calgary.ca that will include more extensive metrics for both climate action and demonstrating how we’re protecting and managing Calgary’s natural environment. As The City continues developing tools to evaluate, measure, and report on our progress, the dashboard and reporting will evolve as well.
One of the biggest challenges with climate action is putting actions into practice. We’re approaching this challenge in two ways:
Net-Zero by 2050
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)
Our target is 60 per cent reduction of GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Climate Resilient City
Building a climate resilient city
Actions that reduce the negative impact of climate change, while taking advantage of potential new opportunities.
Explore the categories below to learn more about each measurement:
Where we work and live
Develop and retrofit buildings (public and private) that reduce embodied and emitted carbon and incorporate climate-resilient designs and materials.
How we build, protect, and strengthen our communities
Develop new communities and retrofit existing ones to achieve net zero emissions and reduce climate risk through city planning, climate-smart services, utilities and infrastructure, and enhancing community climate resilience.
The pathway to Calgary’s targets
Each of the metrics support either our Net-Zero goal or a Climate Resilient City. And in some cases, they support both. They are also directly tied to the focus areas in the 2023-2026 Climate Implementation Plan.
The Implementation Plan describes The City’s priority actions and programs in 2023-2026 that support the Calgary community to improve energy use, reduce climate risk, and work towards net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. It also supports a number of new economic and social opportunities like:
- New industries
- Low-emission technologies
- Local business growth
- Health and well-being of Calgarians
Reaching net-zero by 2050
Net-zero emissions means Calgary will release the same amount of GHG emissions into the earth’s atmosphere as the amount of GHG emissions it removes from the atmosphere. The goal is to find that balance and reduce Calgary’s contributions to global climate change by 2050.
Measuring our progress to net-zero by 2050
We measure GHG emissions through the greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The inventory is calculated based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released from activities that we know are primary sources of GHGs in Calgary:
- Buildings: Energy used in public, private, and industrial buildings for heating, cooling, power, and light (i.e., electricity and natural gas consumption).
- Transportation: Energy used for vehicles, including public, commercial, and private (i.e., from diesel and gasoline).
- Waste: Emissions from waste and wastewater facilities (i.e., methane).
Benefits of a net-zero Calgary:
- Reducing Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions by investing in clean energy, building more efficient homes and buildings, and shifting to low emission modes of transportation is not just a responsibility – it's an opportunity.
- Positions Calgary to be future-ready and successful through climate change.
- Attracts investment from orders of government and industry.
- Creates jobs from growing sectors and new technology.
- Grows Calgary’s reputation as a city to make a great life, both globally and locally.
- Shows leadership, among global cities, in climate action.
Calgary’s Climate Strategy: Pathways to 2050 has set a long-term target to be ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, with an interim target of 60% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2022, Calgary's community-wide GHG emissions were 16.38 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent: 3.7 per cent higher than in 2005.
Climate resilience is the ability to cope with and recover from extreme weather and long-term climate events and trends
Creating a climate resilient city strengthens Calgary so we can cope with and recover from the impacts caused by climate change. We can achieve resilience by reducing the risk of climate change and increasing Calgary’s resilience to climate events and trends, such as extreme weather, from a social, environmental, and economic lens.
There are five climate hazards that are considered most significant for Calgary because of their potential to detrimentally impact our economy, natural environment, and the health and wellbeing of Calgarians.
As temperatures have increased, extreme heat events have also increased. This includes an increase in the number of warm nights (over 14 C), a primary risk factor for heat-related hospital visits and deaths.
Heavy rain and flooding
With climate change, we can expect the amount and intensity of rainstorms to increase, which can lead to more localized flooding.
Wildfires and smoke
With climate change, wildfire risk will continue to intensify leading to increased smoke and air quality issues in Calgary. The smoke hours observed at the Calgary Airport have increased exponentially over the last 30 years. Smoke and poor air quality pose an issue for public health.
Calgary has a dry climate and climate change will lead to longer, hotter and drier summers, and increased drought conditions. Drought occurs when precipitation (i.e. rain/snow), river flow, and groundwater are below average levels for a long period of time.
Winter storms can include snowfall events, freezing rain, ice storms, and rain-on snow events. With climate change, the amount of snow during a snowfall event has increased during the core winter months. Winter storms can damage infrastructure and trees.
Calgarians are being impacted by climate change
Climate events have direct impacts on Calgarians. For example, 72 per cent of Calgarians have been impacted by at least one type of extreme weather event in the last five years (Calgary Climate Perspectives Survey, 2022).
Being ‘impacted’ means experiencing damage, incurring costs, health impacts, or injury as a result of a climate event. The survey indicated that Calgarians feel most impacted by wildfire smoke.
Calgary’s neighborhoods are not impacted equally
The impacts of climate change are unequal and disproportionate across the city — with some people, communities, and areas facing greater risk than others.
Measuring the degree to which a community is exposed to the impacts of climate change and their vulnerability to those impacts are important aspects of creating climate resilience.
The Community Climate Risk Index demonstrates the relative potential for exposure and vulnerability of infrastructure, natural assets, and people to climate hazards in each Calgary community. The CCRI is calculated every four years.
- By the 2050s, if no significant action is undertaken, community risk scores are projected to increase by 78 per cent on average.
- By the 2050s, 68 communities will face moderate climate risk and 20 communities will face high climate risk.
Calgarians are taking action
Calgarians are taking action to reduce the impacts of climate change. Approximately four-in-five Calgarians (82 per cent) have taken at least one action to reduce the impact of extreme weather events on them, including:
- Purchasing an air purifier.
- Improving water drainage on their property.
- Installing an air conditioner.
- Planting trees for shade.
- Planting drought-resistant plants.
- Purchasing flood insurance.
- Installing hail resistant roofing.
- Installing hail-resistant siding.
We all have a role in climate action
The City’s role
As a public service, The City has a responsibility to reduce our global share of GHG emissions and reduce the negative impacts of a changing climate on Calgary.
This is done through diversifying Calgary’s economy, the development and retrofitting of our buildings, streets and infrastructure, protecting Calgary’s natural environment, and strengthening the health and wellbeing of Calgarians.
We’re doing that through a number of channels:
- Operations and maintenance of The City.
- Regulations and incentives through planning and policy.
- Outreach and education with Calgarians.
- Partnerships and relationships with industry sectors, organizations, and community groups.
- Research and innovation.
- Funding and financing projects and programs.
The City can’t do it alone and everyone is impacted by climate change. Climate action requires effort from all Calgarians, industry sectors, businesses, and the community.
As part of the global community, Calgarians have a responsibility to do their share, among cities and people from around the world, to slow the pace of climate change.
This means making climate-conscious choices about your home, your yard, the energy you use, and how you get around Calgary.
Community action builds a stronger Calgary
Climate action is a necessary choice to build a strong economy and healthy city for Calgary’s future. Our collective action, whether from The City or community, also supports the success of the future generations who will call Calgary home.
Addressing climate change is foundational to Calgary's economic transition, and its global reputation as a destination of choice to live, work, and play. It positions Calgary to attract and retain investment and talent while capitalizing on the opportunities of the low-carbon economy.
At The City, we're holding ourselves accountable on our role and effort in leading climate action. We have developed this dashboard to support how we evaluate, measure, and report on our progress. As we get farther down the pathway to 2050, our approaches will evolve and likely change depending on new data, new technologies, or new approaches to taking climate action.