Advocates call for more spending on energy

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Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa Community News

The city is treading "too gingerly” when it comes to dealing with climate change, said Bill Eggertson, who sits on the environmental stewardship advisory committee.

Eggertson joined the chorus of voices calling for more funding for the city’s energy evolution initiatives.

Ottawa is clean, Eggertson told the city’s environment committee on Nov. 21, but it’s mostly a result of a lack of smoke stacks — not any notable difference in Ottawans' behaviour.

The energy evolution aims to reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuel and replace the fleet of vehicles and other equipment with those that run on renewable energy.

It’s a laudable goal, but the city has fallen short of its commitments and won’t meet the city’s emissions targets, critics say.

Robb Barnes, from Ecology Ottawa, an environmental watchdog of sorts, said only $500,000 from for energy evolution is new money, even though $2 million is set aside in the 2018 draft budget.

“I worry the city won’t be able to meet aggressive emissions targets without more money,” he said.

River Coun. Riley Brockington said Barnes is being diplomatic in his description of council’s inability to get some key strategic initiatives off the ground.

One of the key criticisms was lumping $500,000 used to buy green vehicles under the budget for the initiative.

Barnes said it’s “strange” to see the allocation for the green fleet. He, along with Janice Ashworth, from the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce’s sustainability committee, suggested the money should have come from the city’s transportation budget.

“The city should apply a climate lens to everything,” Barnes said.

A motion from Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney to allocate $200,000 of the energy evolution money to staff to the city’s smart energy office fell flat. Committee chair David Chernushenko said he wasn’t comfortable spending already scarce dollars on staff.

“There’s already not a lot there and I think it’s best spent on community partnerships,” Chernushenko said.

The environment budget — which includes water, stormwater and wastewater rates — was approved on Nov. 21. If passed by council on Dec. 13, the rates would go up by four per cent for drinking and wastewater and five per cent for stormwater.