On Thursday, June 8, 2023, DIALOG hosted its third Climate Imperative panel at Calgary’s Central Library, bringing together three thought leaders: Mayor Jyoti Gondek of Calgary, John Kousinioris, the CEO of TransAlta, and Teri Balser, professor and former provost at the University of Calgary, with moderator Jasmine Palardy, a partner at Future Fit Cities, for a robust discussion on the city’s efforts to lead a sustainable energy future.
When it comes to climate change, Alberta has an image problem. Alberta, and specifically its oil and gas industry, has long been viewed as the problem. But at this DIALOG-led conversation, that story got turned on its head.
Alberta’s reputation as a climate change laggard is well earned. Speaking for Transalta, Kousinioris says that in 2017, the company alone was responsible for between five and six percent of Canada’s carbon emissions, 45 megatons annually. The reason is due to coal plants – they’re long gone, but the impression remains. The company has, in six short years, reduced its emissions by 70%, largely by switching those plants to natural gas and by leading the country in renewables like solar and wind-driven electricity generation.
From left to right: John Kousinioris, CEO of TransAlta, Mayor Jyoti Gondek of Calgary, Teri Balser, professor and former provost at the University of Calgary, moderator Jasmine Palardy, Partner at Future Fit Cities, and host Susan Carter, Partner and designer at DIALOG.
What is missing from the international conversation, Mayor Gondek points out, is all the things Alberta, and her city, have done to mitigate the problem. Take Calgary’s downtown, a hollowed-out collection of office towers that once housed a bustling head office community for oil and gas. By attracting tech investment and leveraging investment from the federal government and the private sector, Calgary is converting that space into mixed-use office, residential and retail spaces that are slowly turning into vibrant communities. And that, she mentions, is reducing carbon emissions by eliminating commuting and concentrating and lowering the downtown’s energy demands.
Alberta, in fact, is by far Canada’s leader in lowering carbon emissions and adapting to renewable energy. 21% of Calgary’s energy use, the Mayor points out, now comes from clean tech – and that’s only going to get better as the city’s nascent tech sector turns its collective mind to solving the problem.
Teri Balser says that’s a story that needs to be told. Loudly and proudly. “Albertans,” she says, “don’t stand back from a problem. They’re willing to engage it.” By bringing governments, industry, academic experts, and ordinary citizens together in forums like the Climate Imperative Series, she says that conversation is slowly changing. And, along with it, Alberta’s reputation.
We would like to thank the thoughtful industry leaders and attendees for joining the discussion and giving insight to how we can create climate-conscious path forward.