St. John's to do economic analysis on switch to low-carbon energy
St. John’s city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to do an economic analysis of the city’s low-carbon energy transition.
The analysis will look at current and future estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy use, associated costs and job creation.
It will give the city a year-by-year look at how a transition to low-carbon energy will manifest.
Mayor Danny Breen said the city has to recognize and deal with the economic impact of the oil industry today, but at the same time transition the economy.
"I think that the importance of the oil industry to the province and to the city is extremely significant. And if you look at the troubles in the oil industry right now, they will have a major impact on the city’s financial situation as we move forward, as well. And that’s why this whole area is about (a) transition — it’s not about the sudden switch. We have to transition to the new economy, and I believe that oil is going to be a significant part of the economy for a while to come yet.”
A note to council prepared by the city’s sustainability co-ordinator, Edmundo Fausto, says the analysis will help council make decisions by providing information about the number of jobs projected to be created by a GHG emission reduction strategy, the effect of policies on household energy bills, identification of potential best timing to adopt low-carbon technologies and more.
Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said it is a timely initiative, and the city is making a lot of headway in this area.
“This is not just about a feel-good, let’s play into climate action here — this is hard evidence about economic benefits, certainly, to the city and to the residents, as well.”
Since the city declared a climate emergency last year, it has taken several actions on climate change, including establishing an environment and sustainability experts panel, completing a review of hazards climate change might present to the city and protecting all wetlands within the city’s watersheds.
The economic analysis is part of the Resilient St. John’s Climate Plan. That plan is focused on addressing climate change effects, and the transition to low-carbon energy. Both the analysis and the climate plan are expected to be completed by summer 2021.
The analysis is estimated to cost $80,000, which will come out of the city’s sustainability budget.
Also on Tuesday, the city issued a news release titled Understanding Climate Change.
“Climate change continues to be the biggest challenge of our generation,” the release said.
“While we are still grappling with the aftermath of COVID-19, it is important we continue to identify and address the impacts of climate change to ensure a long-term recovery, a successful energy transition and the resilience of our community.”
The news release included an explainer on climate change.
“Since the early 1900s Earth’s temperature has risen about 1 degree and is continuing to warm. Impacts from current changes in climate are expected to worsen as more greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere.”
For comparison, a graphic included in the release said a five-degree drop in temperature was enough to bury most of North America under ice during the last Ice Age 25,000 to 10,000 years ago.
“This is the extent of change in climate that created fjords like Western Brook Pond,” reads the graphic.
The city is asking residents to participate in public engagement on the Resilient St. John’s Climate Plan via online polls and asking questions at EngageStJohns.ca.
There will also be a virtual public engagement session on Nov. 19. To participate, residents will need to register on the Engage St. John’s website.