About Us

Calgary outranks big cities for greenhouse gas emissions

Apr 6, 2010 - Calgary Sun - AP

The United Nations says Calgary is full of hot air.

New international standards for determining the level of global warming-linked greenhouse gases produced in an urban setting show Calgary easily surpasses Mexico City, Tokyo and New York in per capita emissions and ranks among the highest in the world.

A United Nations Environment Programme report, prepared for last month's fifth annual World Urban Forum in Brazil, listed Calgary in a survey of 50 global cities, ranking it among the top producers of carbon dioxide per person on the planet.

The report says Calgary produces 17.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, the fourth highest of the cities surveyed.

Only Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Denver and Rotterdam, Netherlands, produced more.

Calgary's Canadian competitors, Toronto and Vancouver, saw emissions reach only 9.5 tonnes and 4.9 tonnes, respectively.

Linda Harvey, who heads the city's climate change and air quality department, said Calgary has made major strides in reducing its ecological footprint but unrelenting growth has made it challenging.

"The reason it hasn't gone down over the years is because there's been such an upsurge in people coming here," she said.

"The city is taking a lot of action and those numbers will go down."

Harvey said because Calgary's electrical grid is primarily powered by coal, it contributes much more to greenhouse gas emissions that cities that run on hydro or nuclear power, which includes Vancouver and Toronto.

Of the city's emissions, 43 per cent is generated by electricity while 30 per cent is attributed to vehicles.

Ald. Joe Ceci, who sits on the city's environment committee, said the U.N. numbers suggest cities with higher densities tend to generate less emissions per person, something he believes should prompt Calgary's continued push to curb sprawl.

"It used to be you could drive across town in 10 to 15 minutes and now you'd better bring a lunch," he said.

"I think people are taking this seriously - it's clear that higher density uses less of an ecological footprint."

Ceci added individual Calgarians also need to take responsibility, looking at their lifestyle and transportation choices, which could help curb their impact.

The city is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Calgary by six per cent of 1990 levels by 2012 and by 50 per cent by 2036, Harvey said, adding a community greenhouse gas emissions plan is slated to be completed next year.