City needs to green light greener policies: environmental advocates

Councillors on the city's Environment and Climate Protection Committee are facing criticism for not moving swiftly enough on green initiatives.

Committee members approved updates on two environmental strategies on Tuesday - the "Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan" and the "Renewable Energy Strategy."

But environmental advocates in Ottawa say they fear the city's plans still lack meaningful policy recommendations, significant investment, and a strategy to effectively work with private and government partners.

Graham Saul, the executive director of "Ecology Ottawa," said he fears the city has no plans to implement substantive climate-change policies before the next council elections.

"I don't see anything in the report that suggests that the city intends to bring forward specific policy recommendations in terms of how we can reshape a variety of issues related to renewable energy strategy. It'll come out after the budget and the next budget won't happen until early 2019," Saul said.

"So effectively, financing the renewable energy strategy, if there are any specific financial investment recommendations of any size at all, will be punted into the next term of council."

City staff said they will need time to analyze the effectiveness of different potential climate policy measures, including air and ground source heat pumps, bio-gas heat and electricity generation, and district energy systems.

Committee chair Councillor David Chernushenko said the committee and city staff are listening to the concerns expressed Tuesday and are working quickly to come out with more defined strategies.

"We are going to have to put the pedal to the metal . . . and get this really moving into concreate measures," said Chernushenko.

"That's what we've heard. 'Fine, great you've got consultation, you've got a structure, you've got plans.' We want to see some concrete measures that you're planning the business cases that will back those up and then what might come out of that."

City staff would not give a specific date as to when more concrete policy recommendations would be ready, or whether these would be prepared in time for the city's environmental policy to be meaningfully altered before the next municipal election.