GHG Roundtable

A Discussion Primer

March 2013

Photo by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

“When you see that thin band of atmosphere, it’s ours and it’s shared by the whole planet and we have to collectively take our responsibility. Canada is a big producer of greenhouse gases. But we have collective responsibilities—it isn’t just Canada’s. Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau. In June 2012, Council directed staff to host a round table on greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in order to examine specific issues and consider options for moving forward. This background paper sets out the five questions posed within the Council resolution and summarizes findings to date to help guide roundtable discussions.

What strategies according to cost/benefit analysis result in the greatest reduction of GHG?
Most GHG reduction opportunities lie within the following sectors: transportation, power generation, manufacturing, buildings, agriculture, and forestry.1 Structural changes made at an industry-wide level tend to yield significantly greater reductions than those taken by an individual business, institution, or household, but also cost more and have long financial payback periods (if any). However, the more affordable measures generally taken at the individual or organizational level can achieve measurable results when carried out by many. On a global scale, cost/benefit analysis carried out by McKinsey & Company found the following actions yield the greatest GHG reductions2:

Electricity generation from landfill gas Residential and commercial retrofits New construction standards and materials Geothermal

Waste recycling

Greatest GHG Reductions

Lowest Cost
In another study by McKinsey & Company in 2010 of abatement actions carried out by individuals, businesses and institutions in the USA found the following3.

Lighting, electronics, and appliances; fuel/motor effeciency

Replacement of residential water heaters Conservation tillage Use of commercial building control systems

Residential and commercial retrofits

Greatest GHG Reductions

Lowest Cost

1 2

McKinsey&Company. 2009 Pathway to a Low-Carbon Economy, Version 2 of the Global GHG Abatement Cost Curve. Ibid. 3 McKinsey&Company. 2010 Impact of the financial crisis on carbon economics Version 2.1 of the Global GHG Abatement Cost Curve.

What solutions offer the fastest payback in terms of GHG reductions?
“Payback period” typically refers to the amount of time it takes for an individual or organization to recover the money invested to reduce GHG emissions through reduced energy costs or other efficiency savings. Not all GHG reduction measures earn financial payback in the traditional sense, particularly those carried out on an industry-wide basis. However, there is a range of actions accessible to individual households and organizations that have payback periods of less than 5 years. The following graph presents data from the USA. Not all technical GHG reduction measures are expensive; a lot of potential exists whereby initial costs can be recovered. Energy efficient electronics, lighting and fuel efficient vehicles provide the fastest payback periods (net reduction in costs over time.) These are followed by improvements to commercial and residential building shells, and the conversion of and more efficient use of heating/cooling, power, and hot water systems).4 Upgrading older buildings yields larger GHG emission reductions with shorter payback-periods than more recently constructed buildings. New buildings that upgrade and implement more efficient systems experience a longer payback period due to smaller incremental benefits. Newer buildings, however, do not incur the same challenges and costs typical of older retrofits.

Greenhouse Gas Cost-Benefit Curve (USA)
$/t eCO2 Potential Gt/yr

3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0

$/tonne GHG reduced

100 50 0

Potential reduction / yr

1.5 -50 -100 -150 1.0 0.5 0.0


McKinsey&Company, 2007. Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How much at What Cost?

What solutions have the lowest barriers to success?
Solutions with the lowest barriers to success are those with short pay-back periods (high return on investment), that require limited if any behavioral change, and with little to no impact on lifestyles. As noted previously, these solutions tend to yield low GHG reductions, and thus must be adopted by large numbers of people and organizations to yield measurable results. A 2009 study carried out by Dietz et al. identified the following five actions that are reasonably achievable and can be carried out by households with short payback periods and no appreciable lifestyle change5:

Reduced driving speeds and other changes to driving behaviors

Fuel-efficient vehicle

Switch to more efficient appliances

AC tune ups and auto maintenance

Home weather proofing and upgrades to heating and cooling

Greatest GHG Reductions

Lowest Cost / Least disruptive
Despite relatively short payback periods, many people and organizations do not implement these measures due to a lack of awareness of the financial benefits, cash flow constraints to making the initial investment, and due to the limited importance that this issue has in their daily lives.


Dietz, T, et al. 2009. Household actions can provide a behavioural wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106: 18452–18456.

What utilities and companies can provide synergies through energy reduction and efficiency programs?
GHG reductions can occur through a variety of means, including: The design of a product, building, community (e.g. Energy Star rating, high durability, and the ability to upgrade, reuse, and recycle) Their manufacture and construction (e.g. LEED and ISO 14001) The transport of goods and people (e.g. distance to market and transit) How a product is used, operated, and maintained over time (e.g. HVAC system controls, driving behaviors and auto maintenance) The generation of power for the above (e.g. emission controls, and renewable sources) The greatest synergies occur when all the above occur in a manner that minimize GHG emissions. The following goods, services, and programs are available in Ottawa: Many retailers provide energy efficient appliances, vehicles, and options for recycling of the goods they sell. An increasing number of businesses and institutions are choosing to meet LEED standards when designing, constructing, and renovating their facilities. An increasing number of trades people are knowledgeable of and skilled in alternative materials and construction methods. (e.g. Minto Research and Training Centre in the Construction Trades, a satellite school of La Cité collégiale). Hydro Ottawa and Enbridge offer incentive programs for homeowners (e.g. SaveONenergy, peaksaverPLUS, Home Weatherization Programs) to buy energy efficient appliances. Non-government organizations offer businesses and residents (including low-income homeowners or renters) weatherization through support programs and incentives. The City provides an on-line carpooling service (; an Ecodriving Policy for fleet operators; and has invested $14 million in reducing utility costs and greening city facilities.

How can efficient appliances and/or building features be promoted to a greater degree?
Several organizations are already involved in promoting and enabling energy efficiency and reduced GHG emissions. To date, municipal efforts have focused on the following: Land use planning and public transit Site plan and building design and approvals Fleet management including purchase and operating policies Municipal facility construction, retrofits, and management Waste recovery and recycling, and landfill management Mobile workforce and webEX enabled workplaces. Expanded involvement on this issue should address gaps in audience, message, tools, or other resources and focus on areas of municipal jurisdiction. Potential opportunities to promote GHG friendly appliances and building design include the following: Provide individual consumers and households with a one-stop-shop portal on with: cost-benefit analysis information on appliances a rational between energy reduction, city and household implications, and community benefit a list of efficient appliances in order of efficiency existing incentives and contact information of utilities or companies that offer them information on what others are doing that leverage non-city funded programs Promote leadership by property owners and managers by: Celebrating champions that gained the largest energy efficiency, cost reductions and GHG savings Providing tours of „Green‟ companies and buildings to showcase their efficient building features Encourage broad adoption of energy efficient design by the development community by: Supporting Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) and BOMA BESt (realistic standards for energy and environmental performance of existing buildings) Creating an EcoDistrict that support programs that result in economically and environmentally favourable outcomes (e.g. Toronto.)

Phase 1 Planning and Monitoring
Status Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed Completed On-going

Initiative Refine the corporate inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions including amalgamated municipalities. Prepare a preliminary air emissions inventory and present summary to community. Set-up and/or enhance an ambient air quality (AQ) monitoring program. Explore mobile PM2.5 monitoring station and ambient air monitoring analyzers. Identify steps to improve AQ in the community e.g. smog Refine the community GHG emissions inventory for present status and model future GHG emission levels. Refine priority air contaminant emissions data. Initiate AQ source monitoring. Determine source apportionment of priority contaminants through modelling and ambient monitoring. Stay current with climate change & AQ management initiatives in other Canadian and international cities.

Phase 2

Implementation of the Management Strategy and Refinement

Initiative Research and implement possible regulatory changes for enhanced AQ and energy efficiency as follows: Explore the possibility of advocating for enhanced building energy efficiency considerations in the Ontario and the National Building Codes. Identify potential changes related to energy efficiency and AQ responsibilities and requirements in the update of the City of Ottawa Act. Continue community/corporate vehicle anti-idling campaign. Continue City's corporate building retrofits. Review/enhance EnviroCentre partnership. Conduct LEED training among City planners, regulators and identify additional LEED implementation in City projects. Promote waste reduction & diversion and landfill gas co-generation in conjunction with Solid Waste Services. Continue District Energy project with Energy Ottawa. Update forest cover and carbon sink modelling (feasibility project). Implement the Smog Action Plan. Refine the City's corporate actions during smog events and develop enhanced messaging for the community. Investigate the feasibility of implementing episode management plans during other periods of poor AQ. Identify community and agency stakeholders for the range of measures in this Plan. Develop partnerships relating to information, education and influencing behavioural change for improved AQ and reduced energy use. Develop additional promotional materials on AQ and climate change impacts in Ottawa and proposed measures to address these issues only if needed to augment existing external materials. Review current energy use and set reduction targets. Develop a corporate green procurement policy. Establish Better Building Partnerships and/or institute Local Improvement Charges.

Completed Completed Completed On-going Completed On-going On-going Deferred Completed On-going



On-going On-going On-going

Inventory green roofs in Ottawa, develop screening criteria to assess the potential to incorporate green roofs into development project. Develop and implement driver education for targeted commercial fleets and the public (with Federal Government). Implement freight fleet efficiency programs (with Federal Government). Develop building, site and community Design Guidelines to help guide and encourage energy efficient developments, green buildings and green roofs. Promote and facilitate the development of new alternative energy projects using green or renewable energy sources. Develop a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy as follows: Reduce heat island effect. Climate change emergency response programs. Refine Corporate GHG Reduction Target for 2007-2012.

On-going Completed On-hold On-going On-going

On-going Completed On-going

Phase 3

Evaluation and Management Status
Status Completed On-going On-going

Initiative Evaluate and, if necessary, redesign the monitoring program for long-term trends for parameters of concern. Evaluate measures to reduce energy consumption and monitor GHG emissions trends. Assess progress in achieving the goals of this plan and refine as needed.