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The Soapbox: KED’s environmental impact means 825 extra tons of CO2 yearly

Even as the city has declared a climate emergency and instituted a plan to reduce its emissions, a new entertainment centre on The Kingsway would force more travel for more people, pumping more greenhouse gases into the air
KED-sign1Sized
A sign that hangs at the site of the future Kingsway Entertainment District. (File)

Given the thousands, if not millions, of words written and/or spoken about the proposed Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) since 2017, I find it sad, in the present era of rapid climate change, that very few have been about the environmental impact of this project. 

Especially from the City of Greater Sudbury officials (councillors and senior staff) who thought it appropriate to commission a new report on the KED, at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars to the taxpayers, asking its author to focus only on the changes to the 2017 Business Case Report. No word on the environment. 

In light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released Aug. 9, which states unequivocally that human activity is responsible for the climate changes we are all witnessing and living, it is highly irresponsible.

The damage to the land and the appropriation of nature this project will entail (which most members of the city council and senior officials as well as private developers living off taxpayers’ dollars prefer to call  “development”) is the continuation of a way of thinking appropriate to the 19th and most of the 20th century. It is long passé. Over. 

It is the type of ideology that had its first major iteration in Sudbury in the mid 1960s when city officials decided to bulldoze two otherwise vibrant neighbourhoods (Borgia/Young and the majority Francophone area of Verchères/Louis/Xavier/Ignatius streets) in order to erect a monstrous city centre. It also demolished the better part of the Drinkwater neighbourhood to build a four-lane north-south thoroughfare thereby promoting the culture, if not the cult, of the automobile. 

It is the same kind of thinking that led to the demolition of historic buildings in favour of parking lots, thus gutting the downtown core made up mostly of independent and local businesses in favour of big box stores with their vapid architecture and large corporations with no roots in the community, again promoting car culture. 

And now the KED — same kind of thinking, same results. It is this very kind of thinking and planning that has landed humanity and the whole planet in the present era of environmental devastation and climate change. 

It has been left to a few concerned citizens, such as Ian Berdusco and John Lindsay, to point to some of the impacts of the KED on the city’s environment. Mr. Berdusco’s column (“12 reasons to rethink the KED and six councillors who need an ego check”) mentions the number of kilograms of carbon dioxide (800,000) the project will produce on a yearly basis. Mr. Lindsay’s letter (“KED moving ahead ignores realities”, FriendlySudbury.ca) is concerned with the impact that construction of the KED will have on Ramsey Lake’s water quality.

Inspired by these two concerned citizens, I set out to quantify the environmental impact the KED will have on the City of Greater Sudbury and surrounding areas by undertaking the following steps and calculations:

1. I travelled, mostly by bicycle, in and around the City of Greater Sudbury in order to measure the distance between various points and A) the Sudbury Community Arena (SCA), and; B) the proposed arena and events centre on the Kingsway;

2. I examined the geography and the demography of the city’s 12 wards.

Based on this data, 75 per cent of the residents of the City of Greater Sudbury will have to travel, on average, an extra 16 kilometres to and from the KED compared to Sudbury Arena. Whether they be from the South End, west of Avalon Road in Minnow Lake, west of a north-south line defined by Agincourt and Attlee streets in New Sudbury, or Valley East and Capreol, they will need to travel an average of 16 additional kilometres to attend every single event at the KED.

3. Based on the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, expectations are there will be 78 annual events at the centre with an average attendance of 4,070 spectators. Assuming, as the report does, that there will be additional but smaller events, I have estimated the total annual events, conservatively, at 80;

4. Based on an estimate that the great majority will travel to and from the KED in a motorized vehicle (car or multi-purpose vehicle, i.e. pick-up truck and SUV), which will contain an average of two people per vehicle and based on the expectations of there being 4,070 spectators per event, I assume this will mean 2,000 vehicles per event.

This means that 75 per cent, or 1,500 vehicles, will travel 1,920,000 — let’s round this to two million — extra kilometres every year to attend the 80 events at the KED (1,500 x 80 x 16).

5. In Canada, the average fuel consumption per type of vehicle is the following: cars, 10.2 litres of fuel per 100 kms; pickup trucks, 13 litres per 100 kms, and; SUVs 11.7 litres per 100kms (https://nrcan.gv.ca/fuelconsumption, 2021). Based on an estimate that 75 per cent of vehicles in Sudbury are multi-purpose vehicles (from a non-scientific sample of vehicles I conducted in various large parking lots in the city and other measures), the average litre of fuel consumed in the city, by all vehicles, is 12 per 100 kms.

Therefore, 240,000 additional litres of fuel (2,000,000 kms x 12 litres/100 kms) will be needed to travel to and from the KED on a yearly basis.

6. Based on the fact that 2.3 kgs of CO2 (https://nrcan.gv.ca/transportation/fuelefficiency) are produced with every litre of fuel consumption, the total CO2 spewed into the atmosphere by travelling to and from the KED will be 560,000 kgs or 1,232,000 lbs or 616 US tonnes.

7. Based on the fact that average cars idling for 10 minutes consume 0.25 litres of fuel (https://nrcan.gv.ca/energy/efficiency/transportation/idling), 2,000 vehicles idling for 10 minutes will consume 500 litres of wasted fuel at every event. For 80 events that amounts to 40,000 litres of wasted fuel and 92,000 kgs of additional CO2 yearly. 

Overall, that amounts to 652,000 kgs of CO2 or 1,434,000 lbs/720 tonnes yearly. Since expectations are there will be only two entrances/exits at the KED, one can assume that it will take more than 10 minutes of idling per vehicle to enter and leave after major events. 

8. If one adds the extra energy in CO2 needed to prepare the site, produce, transport and install/construct the necessary infrastructure (already in the ground for the SCA) and the new arena/events centre, I estimate the amount of extra greenhouse gas emissions per year will be in the neighbourhood of 750,000 kgs or 825 US tonnes. That is the equivalent to 825 return flights from Toronto to Vancouver per year (https://CO.myclimate.org/en/flight-calculations/new). 

In summary:

  • Seventy-five per cent of the city’s residents will need to travel, on average, an extra 16 kilometers to and from the KED compared to Sudbur Arena;
  • The 4,070 (average) expected spectators at the KED for 80 events will travel by motorized vehicles containing, on average, two passengers per vehicle; therefore 2,000 vehicles on average will travel to the KED to attend these events;
  • Seventy-five per cent of city residents will have to travel an extra two million kilometers yearly, with their vehicles consuming about 12 litres of fuel per 100 kms. Per year, that mounts to 240,000 additional litres of fuel burned, spewing 616 US tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere;
  • Adding the other factors mentioned above, a total of 825 US tonnes of CO2 will be added to the atmosphere, which equals 825 return flights Toronto-Vancouver.

In an era of unprecedented climate change, approving a project like the KED, given its environmental impact, borders on gross dereliction of duty. Especially given that more than a year ago, the City of Greater Sudbury city council voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling climate change an emergency. 

Furthermore, in September 2020, council unanimously approved the Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP), the first objectives of which consist in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and also energy. Then this past February, the city released the first phase of its five-year climate action plan in support of the CEEP, which strives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“According to a city report presented on Feb. 9, the CEEP notes that ‘compact, well-designed neighbourhoods where workplaces, shops and schools are easily accessible by walking, biking and transit help reduce the number of trips by private vehicles and the required infrastructure footprint to provide the necessary services”, Sudbury.com, Aug. 23).

Despite the unanimous adoption of these plans and their objectives, the mayor and six councillors voted, in June, to continue the construction of the KED. Reaching this site by walking, biking and transit in order to reduce the number of trips by private vehicles will be nigh impossible for the great majority of spectators. 

The addition of unnecessary carbon in the atmosphere has not only environmental costs, but also social costs, defined as “a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages and includes, among other things, changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning.” (https://www.epa.gov./socialcostofcarbon)

In its final section, the PwC report assigns various degrees of risk to three potential projects: Sudbury Arena, another downtown site and the new events centre at the KED. It concludes by assigning the highest risk to the existing arena. By shifting one’s perspective from 19th-century thinking (growth, development and business at any and all cost) to one more attuned to the 21st century (de-growth, decarbonization and husbanding the Earth’s resources) and thereby analyzing different data, it becomes very clear that the highest risk is, on the contrary, the KED. 

Even though the CEEP takes some of its inspiration from this new paradigm, it amounts to nothing if a bare majority of council and senior officials continue to be wedded to a 19th-century mode of thinking.

Now more than ever, it is time city officials undertake this change of perspective in order to care for this region in a more responsible and ecological manner. Cancelling the KED project would be an excellent start. 

Donald Dennie, a former journalist and retired teacher, has resided in the city of Sudbury for the past 50 years. He is the author of “Une histoire sociale du Grand Sudbury” (Éditions Prise de parole, 2017).