Mayor omits real estate from City of Ottawa environmental program

The City of Ottawa has a number of significant initiatives underway to address the impact of climate change and reduce GHG emissions. However, property-related programs seem to be a low priority.
A speech given by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson at the first Green House Gas Roundtable itemized the city's commitment to environmental leadership by describing several programs undertaken since he was elected in 2008.
The city hosted the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Roundtable on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at city hall.
City council committed to host the roundtable to kick-start a review of its 2004 Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan. That plan set GHG reduction targets for 2008 and 2012 for the city and community at large. Work is underway to determine whether targets have been met and to update the plan.
Mayor praises transit programs
The mayor took the occasion to boast about commencement of work on the city’s new LRT called the Confederation Line that is scheduled to start operation in 2018. He described how it would put an end to ‘bumper to bumper’ bus traffic in downtown Ottawa.
By taking half the buses off the road and encouraging commuting by transit, the new $2.1-billion LRT is expected to reduce GHG emissions by 90,000 tonnes a year. “This is one of the largest one-time reductions in GHGs and air pollutants in the city’s history,” said Watson.
In the past two years, the city has increased its commitment to a park and ride program by 40% with the installation of 2,243 parking places at a cost of approximately $19-million dollars. The spaces allow thousands of drivers to leave their cars and take public transit. But the new capacity is being filled as quickly as it is being built.
The average commute in Ottawa is 20 kilometres, consuming 1.3 tonnes of GHG per vehicle, according to the mayor. The new parking spaces are expected to reduce GHG 3,000 tonnes a year on a city-wide basis.
Initiatives improve cycling in capital
The current term of city council has also made the largest commitment to cycling in the city’s history, spending $26-million to create more than 70 kilometres of new bike paths, building the first segregated bike lane in Ontario along Laurier Avenue as well as on street bicycle racks, said Watson.
Not to forget those still driving vehicles, the mayor, who owns an electric car, noted the installation of an electrical charging station for vehicles installed at City Hall.
Between 2004 and 2008 the city reported a 12% reduction in GHG emissions, the result of a landfill gas collection and electrical generation system. Methane from the landfill is now used to generate electricity rather than being released into the atmosphere, which the mayor attributed to a 107,000 tonne annual reduction in GHGs.
The mayor cited other city environmental programs, including its green bin program and reduction of solid waste going into the landfill, retirement of 70 old city buses, the ongoing replacement of aging municipal vehicles as well as the city council’s recent unanimous decision to not expand its municipal boundary.
System cuts sewage output
A high priority for the city with respect to capital funding has been a containment system that reduces the discharge of bio matter — city speak for sewage — going into the Ottawa River.
The Ottawa River Action Plan phases one and two has resulted in a 60% reduction in discharge since 2010. Phase three of the plan is expected to be completed in 2017 assuming continued funding through the federal Build Canada Program.
While this is a significant list of achievements, building related programs were not included in the Mayor’s presentation in spite of the built environment contributing 40% or more of the GHG emissions. There are also significant public and private efforts underway to reduce this contribution in Ottawa and across the country, including some at the City of Ottawa.
The mayor’s omission of building environmental programs was underscored by the presence of banners depicting Ottawa’s greenest buildings adorning the Jean Pigott Hall where the speech was made including city-owned buildings that have achieved LEED certification. The effort to organize an Ottawa Centre Eco-District also went unacknowledged in Watson’s speech.
City examines LEED requirement
The mayor’s presentation follows on the recent news that the City’s Environment Committee is debating an end to the requirement that new city buildings meet the LEED Silver standard. The city has also prepared a Green building policy slated for consideration by city council and there are ongoing energy conservation programs in city building operations.
Alexander Wood, Senior Director, Policy and Markets at Sustainable Prosperity, who also presented at the GHG roundtable, acknowledged the importance and prevalence of building energy conservation programs in response to a question. He noted, however, that building energy conservation alone isn’t going to achieve the 90% reduction in GHG we need to alleviate climate change. He said that it can only be achieved through a “deep structural change” in our society and how municipalities are developed.
The city is now taking the next step in its review of the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan which is to take the results of the discussion from the GHG roundtable and to set new targets and update the plan with support from Ottawa’s recently established Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee.


Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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