Audit reveals gaps in governance structure of Edmonton's climate goal delivery team

In August 2019, Edmonton city council declared a climate emergency and adopted a revised Energy Transition Strategy.   (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
In August 2019, Edmonton city council declared a climate emergency and adopted a revised Energy Transition Strategy. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

An Edmonton team responsible for delivering on the city's climate goals needs to improve its administrative structure to better deliver the city's climate strategies, an audit report has found.

The report goes to city council's audit committee on Monday, along with a response from city administration.

The audit found that the city does not formally assign and communicate roles and responsibilities for climate strategies relating to policy and procedure development, decision-making, monitoring and evaluation, and budget and financial reporting.

It found that the Environment and Climate Resilience Team has not implemented any methods to measure success or progress of the work it is doing, and isn't collecting data in an efficient way for informed decision-making or created climate-related training for city departments.

The climate resilience team's role is to develop strategies, policies and programs to help the city meet its climate goals.

Jacob Komar, co-chair of the Energy Transition and Climate Resilience Committee, an advisory group to city council that also works with the climate resilience team, said the audit's findings are not surprising.

"It's something we kept bringing up," said Komar, a mechanical engineer.

"I want to give them credit that it takes time but we haven't seen enough metrics used to make decisions and to track how we're doing."

Komar said the bigger issue lies with the overall culture at the city. He said he is aware the team is trying its best.

"We really need, at the very top, culture change to be distilled down and we're just not sure that was happening at the pace we need it to," he said.

In August 2019, Edmonton city council declared a climate emergency, and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 C.

Komar said his committee doesn't believe that climate change has been a priority for city leadership.

From his meetings with the climate resilience team, he said he understands it can plan and report on issues but can't make other departments prioritize them.

"They don't manage or control other departments, so they can't affect their emissions," he said.

Komar commended the city for making progress on things like creating a climate task force, and its plans to hire a chief climate officer, but he said members of the committee he co-chairs are still frustrated at the pace things are moving.

He said now it's time for bigger changes in the city like enacting more stringent requirements on energy efficiency codes, improving transportation so that people aren't reliant on cars, and making neighbourhoods more walkable.

"I want every single employee to be looking at ways of reducing emissions," he said.

"It's time to start taking some big swings."

The city created a climate team after adopting the Energy Transition Strategy in 2015. Since the team of three has grown to 22 as Edmonton approved the Climate Adaptation Strategy in 2020 and an updated Energy Transition Strategy in 2021.

City administration has responded to the audit report, saying it has started work on improving the areas of concern.

"Full implementation will require transformational change across the organization," city administration states in the response report.

Coun. Ashley Salvador, an adviser to the energy transition and climate resilience committee, said she wants to know more about what the climate team has accomplished to date.

"How far off are we from actually being able to say that we are doing the things that are recommended by this audit report?" she said.

In its response to the audit, city administration said it plans to start implementing the auditor's recommendations this year and continue into 2026.

LISTEN | Jacob Komar talks about the audit report: