Braid: Climate emergency declaration boosts Calgary's economic recovery – Calgary Herald

At this crucial stage, Calgary must not seem lukewarm about the climate action investors want
Mayor Jyoti Gondek’s declaration of climate emergency won’t face much trouble from her new council. It’s likely to pass by 12-3 or better when the vote comes Nov. 15.
About time, too. More than 500 Canadian cities, towns, hamlets and the federal Parliament have already passed this resolution. Edmonton did so in 2019.
By failing to sign on, Calgary risks looking like a climate change denier. That would harm the city’s reputation — and economy.
Premier Jason Kenney, exercising his knee-jerk reflex to almost anything coming out of Calgary council, scolded Gondek when she announced her intention.
“In a city that has been suffering from near double-digit unemployment, that has gone through five years of deep economic adversity, I find that a peculiar priority,” Kenney said.
“I would have thought that the mayor of Calgary’s top priority would be getting Calgarians back to work,” he said. “That’s certainly my top priority.”
But this climate declaration is very much about jobs. It’s a signal to the country and the world that the city is open to investment in technology and innovation, as well as the oil and gas industry’s transition to net-zero emissions.
That 2019 declaration sure didn’t hurt Edmonton. Although times are far from easy there, the capital has done much better than Calgary.
There has been massive investment in petrochemicals and now hydrogen on Edmonton’s eastern frontier. The province approved and backed projects with no worry about the local council’s climate declaration.
Largely due to COVID-19, Edmonton lost 12,700 jobs in the past two years, according to a Calgary report on post-pandemic recovery.
But Calgary lost 26,100 jobs in the same period. Our unemployment rate is consistently higher than Edmonton’s, running at 9.3 per cent since 2019.
If a climate emergency declaration can be linked to jobs, as Kenney seems determined to do, there’s an argument that Edmonton is doing better because it passed one.
Now Calgary has scored Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) second hub in Canada, after Montreal, which declared a climate emergency in 2019. There will be 900 jobs and $4 billion in spending, including construction of three sites in Calgary.
Amazon won’t be offended by council’s climate declaration. The vast overall company is committed to net-zero carbon emissions across all its operations by 2040.
The Calgary win is called “transformational,” and for once that’s no exaggeration.
It signals that Calgary is a top-tier international magnet for investment. Other companies cluster near Amazon sites like iron filings around a magnet.
Calgary beat out Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver, says Patrick Mattern, vice-president of business development for Calgary Economic Development. There were many factors, including real estate costs and tax rates.
Although Mattern can’t say for sure if there’s a connection, Calgary’s aggressive bid for Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) probably helped.
The city failed to make the final cut in early 2018 — Toronto was the only Canadian city on the list of 20 — but still made an impression. A site in Virginia was the eventual winner.
In 2017, Amazon located a fulfilment centre at Balzac. That has since been followed by a sorting facility.
The region was already well-known to Amazon when talks began in 2019 with AWS, the most profitable unit of Amazon, supplier of cloud computing, storage, networking and a lot more.
Only a day after the Amazon news came out, a business support company called Plug and Play announced location of a headquarters in Calgary.
Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer noted that in the past two years, the number of tech companies in the province has jumped from 1,800 to 3,000.
After six tough years and too many empty buildings, Calgary’s economic future is taking shape.
It’s a mix of digital companies, health sciences, AI and energy companies that branch into new areas while cutting emissions from production.
At this crucial stage, Calgary must not seem lukewarm about the climate action investors want.
So, get it over with. Pass that resolution.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
Twitter: @DonBraid
Facebook: Don Braid Politics
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