The GLOBE Forum is GLOBE Series’ biennial business summit, connecting Canadian sustainability leaders and innovators in government and industry. This year, through a first-of-its-kind partnership, GLOBE Series and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities joined forces to develop a new, municipal focused, GLOBE Forum program stream: Local Solutions to Net Zero. Over three days, elected officials and industry experts formed panels to discuss the ways in which local climate action raises complex challenges related to procurement and regulation, but also creates opportunities for non-government innovation. For every industry, engaging with local solutions to net-zero is critical to being well-positioned in Canadian cities when these opportunities arise. Here’s what you need to know:
Investing in the retrofit economy
As 12% of Canada’s carbon emissions come from existing buildings, municipalities are prioritizing the rollout of large-scale energy retrofits in their climate action plans. This has already proved to be a complex and expensive endeavor. In Ontario, for example, cities like Ottawa and Guelph have sought out grants in the tens of thousands of dollars for retrofit feasibility studies, just to establish baseline emissions data. At the GLOBE Forum, Tim Coldwell, panelist and President of Chandos Construction, said there is a real opportunity to involve land developers in this process—municipalities can monetize retrofits through energy savings, but they cannot avoid the need to construct new buildings. Effective partnerships, retrofit technologies and end-of-life building strategies can be better integrated, opening the door for expedited development application processes and other streamlined investment opportunities for the private sector. Christina Marciano, Vice President of the Environment Practice at Sussex, also sees an early opportunity for contractors and developers to get involved with building retrofit initiatives. “The City of Toronto manages a real estate portfolio of over 8,000 properties, many of which are older structures that are less energy efficient,” explains Marciano. “Building retrofits are not only necessary for the pathway to net zero, but to ensure the future viability of community and civic spaces and affordable housing.”
Multi-stage partnerships in low-carbon transportation projects
In contrast to building retrofits, municipal low-carbon transportation initiatives vary both in sequence and desired outcome. This means that municipal governments will be looking for different types of private sector partnerships at different stages of implementation. Panelist and Mayor of Laval, Stephane Boyer, approached zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption by setting ambitious, long-term goals for ZEV infrastructure and use in his city, which included securing an external partnership with Chevrolet for a carpool pilot program early in the process. The Honourable Bruce Ralston, panelist and British Columbia’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, said there are smaller municipalities in British Columbia currently focusing on more specific, in-house efforts to reach low-carbon transportation goals, like developing special staff training for the operation of electric buses. In this case, opportunities for partnerships with government would arise further down the line in the project process. There is also a difference in types of low-carbon transit fleets that present partnership opportunities when adopted by municipalities. Whereas Toronto opted to procure battery-electric fleets, Hamilton turned to compressed and renewable natural gas fuel sources. These differences in approach create space for multi-phased, long-term partnerships with energy distributors, electric utilities, equipment manufacturers and other key stakeholders. Securing these opportunities will require early engagement, to socialize product services and offerings with municipalities as they consider their future options. This outreach is where Sussex can help, to get you in front of the right stakeholders with the right strategy at the right time.
A blended financial approach
The funding programs available to municipalities through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities will likely be insufficient alone to finance every municipality’s net-zero strategy at the scale needed to meet emissions reductions targets. To ensure a path forward, expert panelists Abi Bond, Housing Secretariat at the City of Toronto, Alex Boston, Executive Director at Renewable Cities, and Doug Webber, Principal at Purpose Building, emphasized the need for a mixed-funding model for municipal climate action. An optimal approach would allow municipalities to stack incentives from multiple sources—a private investment on top a government grant, for example—to accelerate climate action initiatives. For the industry, movements on municipal files are key to opportunities for growth nationwide. “The federal government and municipalities across Canada seem to be in strong alignment concerning climate action and energy decarbonization”, says Roberto Chavez, Senior Associate with the Federal Practice at Sussex. “Recently, the federal government committed to rolling out a clean electricity standard to achieve a net zero grid by 2035—it is imperative that risk and financing perspectives of municipalities and their utilities are taken into account to assure this ambitious policy objective is met.”
As the pressure mounts on municipalities to find robust sources of investment for climate action initiatives, it will be key to monitor their governing bodies for partnership and procurement opportunities. With municipalities already facing financial tensions due to COVID-19 recovery efforts and with a provincial election approaching, it is important for industry stakeholders to get ahead of the curve on these files. Sussex recommends a proactive strategy—the investment in time is worthwhile. Our team can help you to navigate new opportunities that will augment your brand and increase your bottom line, while also forming the course for future generations.
Please do not hesitate to contact your Sussex consultant should you have any questions.
Angela Drennan, Vice President and Municipal Practice Lead, firstname.lastname@example.org
Roberto Chavez, Senior Associate, Federal, email@example.com