What the City of Ottawa GHG Inventory Means

The City of Ottawa memo 2004 And 2008 Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Reduction Measures And Approach To Future Targets dated April 26, 2012 devotes the majority of its attention to the laudable achievement of a 12.5% reduction in emissions from the City of Ottawa’s own operations. The City is certainly to be congratulated for that.

However, the memo includes for 2008 the figures 293,478.09 and 6,153,819 tonnes of equivalent CO2 emissions for City operations and the broader “community” respectively. This works out to approximately 95% of the GHGs produced in Ottawa being produced by the rest of us – not City of Ottawa “corporate” sources. The 2004 split isn’t much different.

Unfortunately that 95% of GHG emissions went up between 2004 and 2008.

The memo notes that City Council in January 2005 targeted reductions of 20% in community emissions by 2012 from 1990 levels. It looks like we’re nowhere near approaching that. Here’s why:

This is actually the third attempt by the City of Ottawa to nail down GHG emissions. The first two happening by 2005 and 2007. But the results of those earlier efforts are not seen to be reliable. The recent memo itself says

It should also be noted that the 2004 and 2008 inventories are based on more stringent international reporting protocols and as a result are not directly comparable with previous inventory work.

When you look at the graphs of what those earlier inventories found for community emissions it’s pretty clear that something isn’t right.

As an aside, it seems to me that the very fact that these three studies gave such different results, yet Environment Committee was going to slide the memo through without discussion, bespeaks a lack of scrutiny on this issue. I don’t want to be critical of staff who I’m sure are working to make their results more and more accurate; I just point out that our elected officials (in the main) didn’t seem too concerned that these results were all over the map.

But back to the meaning behind the memo.

One fact not noted in the memo is that based on these inventories the City can’t actually tell what GHG emissions levels were back in 1990; the baseline year against which our 20% reduction targets are supposed to be measured.

To get an approximation of what Ottawa’s community emissions might have been in 1990 I’ve scaled the curve for emissions for all of Canada and laid it over the latest results.

If that 1990 starting point is even close to being accurate it’s clear that our goal of 20% GHG reduction by 2012 is a long way off (see below).

Of note of course is the fact that this is 2012 right now. There’s not much left that we can do in the 2008 to 2012 period to bring our emissions down.

So what’s a soul to do?

Presumably not talking about the challenge isn’t the answer.

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4 Responses to What the City of Ottawa GHG Inventory Means

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