On Thursday, September 10th, we were lucky to have Maurya Braun from the City of Edmonton and Karine Hertzberg and Catrin Robertsen from the City of Oslo to educate and share their approaches for advancing a climate budget in their communities. Want to incorporate a climate budget? Keep reading to get expert advice!

What Is a Carbon Budget?

Let’s start with a bit of history on what carbon budgeting is and why it’s important for your community and the planet. A carbon budget is the maximum amount of greenhouse gas allowed for emission without increasing the global average temperature to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Currently, Earth can only hold 2500 gigatonnes of emitted greenhouse gases before the effects of climate change truly take over. It sounds like a lot, but since the industrial revolution in 1870, greenhouse gas emissions have grown at an exponential rate. In 2011, we only had 600 gigatonnes left, and the amount of greenhouse gas we can safely emit is decreasing at an accelerated pace.

A Problem

Another alarming issue with the rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions is that certain cities produce higher levels of greenhouse gas than others. Often the cities with the highest GDP are the biggest offenders. This disparity can be repaired when higher-emitting cities decrease their emissions, and low emitting cities can raise their greenhouse emissions. Plus, this allows lower-emitting cities that typically have a lower GDP to catch up to the technology that high-emitting cities have by 2030. From 2030 onwards, cities around the world will work together to balance their own emissions. This balance is called equitable distribution. Take a look at the graphic below to see an example of how equal distribution can be achieved:

Assuming the global population grows at the current pace, cities can use this approach to calculate a carbon budget that fits within the global carbon budget. Edmonton has used this approach to calculate its carbon budget. The calculation has been completed, and Edmonton only has 155 megatonnes left in their carbon budget that can be used by 2050. How will Edmonton stay on track? Well, you can annualize the totals and ensure that emissions are diminishing as gradually as possible. The following graph outlines Edmonton’s historical emissions in dark blue and the required emissions trajectory in light green. The stars in 2030 and 2050 show that the emissions left in the carbon budget align with the convergence and contraction model. Then Edmonton decided to align the monetary budget to the carbon budget to align fiscal and environmental goals.

Edmonton plans to achieve those goals by reducing emissions in several areas. As you can see below, the City of Edmonton plans to reduce emissions in buildings by 21%, clean energy to 27%, transportation to 26%, and any remaining emissions to 15%. The city plans to do this by creating new zoning by-laws for buildings requiring the use of solar panels and increasing the energy efficiency in city buildings.

How Can We Decrease Carbon Emissions?

First, we will start with Maurya’s expertise in carbon budgeting. For a bit of background on her work, she has worked as a Greenhouse Gas Inventory Manager for three years at the City of Edmonton, and she manages the technical modelling to inform an update to the City of Edmonton’s energy transition strategy. She will walk you through the carbon accounting framework, which has recently taken a larger role within internal processes. Plus, you’ll learn how Maurya puts carbon budgeting into practice in the City of Edmonton. She advises planning for a 4-year carbon budget. 

Edmonton is a university and government city that has been working to address climate change for quite some time. One of the current initiatives that are taking place is the implementation of a carbon budgeting framework. This framework is designed to guide decision making in the city – the same idea as a financial budget that identifies how much you can spend in a given amount of time. Using the carbon budgeting framework, here’s how you can get started on your budgeting journey:

Step 1: Identify your Project. You may want to focus this new venture on:

  • Community energy transition strategy
  • Civic Operations Greenhouse Gas Management Plan 
  • Other city departments

Step 2: Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Impacts

  • Use the carbon accounting tool to calculate how much carbon your city can afford to emit or cut back on 
  • You may have colleagues who can do these calculations or you may have to do some training on this

Step 3: Prioritization

  • Align your carbon budget with the corporate financial budgeting process to ensure emissions goals take precedence 

Step 4: Identification of Carbon Deficit

  • Report your findings to city council
  • Host a public hearing
  • If there is a deficit in the carbon budget, the council will decide whether to approve or reject the project

Step 5: Evaluation

  • Evaluation of impacts using annual inventories, so the organization can improve forecasts as time goes on
  • Reporting

Next up, we had the pleasure of hearing Karine Hertzberg from the City of Oslo speak about the climate strategy in Oslo, Norway.

Did you know that over 700,000 people call Oslo home? The population is diverse due to the amount of government and higher education institutions that reside in the city. Because of the amenities in Oslo, housing is in high demand, and the city only runs on renewable energy resources. 

Norway’s climate strategy is well-paced for 2030. The plan includes reducing energy consumption by 10%, the continued protection of their forest and land, and reducing the number of emissions outside Oslo to the rest of Norway. The city believes they can achieve their climate goals by creating national policies, which can include the use of carbon taxes, and country-wide incentives for electric vehicles. Plus, this year, Norway has phased out the use of fossil fuel in buildings. 

On a municipal level, Oslo is focusing on the implementation of policies for increased spatial planning and forest management, waste management, public transport, parking, improved waste management systems, and a climate-energy fund. 

Oslo plans to use the carbon budget as part of the municipal budget. The Vice Mayor of Finance is mainly responsible for the allocation of monetary funds and carbon budgeting and maintains emission inventories and baselines. The Vice Mayor also evaluates emission reduction measures annually and assesses the costs for implementation of new and improved processes in emission reduction. When emission reduction is measured, it gets reported as part of the regular budget cycle. Take a look at Oslo’s climate targets for the next ten years:

Wondering what your carbon budget should include? Well, Karine says that a carbon budget should outline where emissions develop, what new measures are possible, and who will be responsible for following up on the set climate targets. See below for how your budget process may look in the first and second year:

Last but not least, we had Catrin Robertsen speak to us from the Climate Agency, City of Oslo to share how she breaks down her carbon budget. 

Catrine’s area of focus at the Climate Agency is transportation emissions. From 2009-2018, the highest amount of greenhouse gases in the city came from personal transportation and transportation from construction vehicles. Some of the solutions Catrine is using to fight transportation pollution is implementing a road user payment system, fossil-free public transport, zero-emission construction, and the reduction of fossil components in waste incineration. Take a look at where Oslo’s emissions came from in 2009-2018, then look at Oslo’s projected goals for Greenhouse Gas emissions from 2017-2030. The city is well on its way to achieving its climate goals!

Catrine can draw conclusions about the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by:

  • Reporting three times a year as part of the regular budget process
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
  • Targets per measure
  • The climate barometer

 Catrine uses a mix of historical and projected emissions to calculate the climate budget from 2020 onwards.

All in all, climate budgets put climate policies at the centre or budget discussions. Our speakers agree that it is crucial to establish ownership across agencies and place the responsibility on to your colleagues to implement a plan to reduce emissions in their city. When you’re creating a carbon budget it’s essential to always have the big picture in mind!

Want to learn more about how you can implement policies into your own business and city? We have a number of blogs you can read from previous webinars here. Plus, you can be part of a greater discussion by attending our webinars! Keep an eye on our events page to be the first to know about our virtual events!
All graphics are from: the City of Edmonton and the City of Oslo.