City of Vancouver to reduce GHG emissions

Vancouver (GLOBE-Net) - A new administrative report recently delivered to the City of Vancouver’s Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment has concluded new actions locally, provincially, and nationally will be required in order to meet the City’s 2012 community greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target.

The 2007 Climate Protection Progress Report states that based on current projections, community GHG emissions will be essentially unchanged from current levels by 2012. The report recognizes current efforts to improve energy-efficiency and more sustainable transportation within the community, but notes that progress appears to be just keeping apace with population growth.

In March 2005, Vancouver City Council approved the Community Climate Change Action Plan to reduce GHG emission in the community to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Two years later, community emissions remain at 5% above 1990 levels, having peaked in 2001 and recently begun to stabilize into what the report characterizes as “a very slow decline to 2012.”

The City has already undertaken a number of efforts to reduce community emissions. One Day Vancouver, the City’s public engagement initiative, is working to encourage individual behavior changes that promote environmental sustainability. A partnership with the Vancouver Taxi Association has successfully encouraged the use of a fuel-efficient vehicle selection process for the city’s taxi fleet, while a new city by-law was passed to prohibit unnecessary vehicle idling.

The City is also experimenting with energy innovations, such as the South East False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility project, a $14 million district heating system which will use sewage heat recovery as the primary heat source for the community set to house the 2010 Olympic Village.

Despite these positive actions, the Report concludes that additional measures are needed to meet the City’s self-designated targets for reducing GHG emissions. The report advocates greater focus on sustainable transportation choices, the development of programs to encourage and enable home energy retrofits and savings, and the formation of partnerships to engage businesses and large emitters to reduce their emission from buildings and fleet operations.

“Without substantial improvement to transit capacity in Vancouver, it will be difficult to make significant progress towards reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2012,” the Report states.

“The completion of the Canada Line, the extension of the Millennium Line along the Broadway corridor, more SkyTrain cars, implementing the first phase of t he Downtown Streetcar, and the expansion of B-line services along 41st avenue and Hastings Street will be critical to enabling increase transit use.”

The report also recommends that the city continue to improve cycling and walking infrastructure, develop approaches to support the expansion of car sharing in Vancouver, analyze opportunities for bike sharing, and provide re-charging infrastructure to support the use of electric vehicles.

These recommendations come as Vancouver works on a long-range climate protection plan that will identify the changes and actions needed to meet targets newly established in 2007, including a 33% reduction in community GHG emission below 2007 levels. The Report suggests that the City should review and build on existing work to identify opportunities for climate protection, including the Globe Foundation’s Endless Energy Project. (To view the Endless Energy Project, click here

While the Report emphasizes room for improvement, Vancouver does remain a leader in reducing GHG emissions. Nationally greenhouse gas emissions have increased 25 % and provincial emissions are up 30% since 1990. But Vancouver’s per capita emissions are actually down 15% compared to 1990 levels, to 4.9 tonnes per person. This is less than those for Toronto, (9.3 t/person), Calgary (17.5 t/person), Seattle (12.4 t/person), and Portland (13.7 t/person).

This is significant given that since 1990, Vancouver has seen a 24% growth in population, and corresponding increases in the city’s built area, number of automobiles, and demands for city services.

As the report explains, Vancouver has seen its greatest success in working to improve the environmental footprint of its civic operations. Vancouver’s 2006 GHG emissions from civic operations have fallen to 5% below 1990 levels, and are projected to be 18% below 1990 levels by 2010. This will be just 2% shy of the target Council set for Vancouver in the Corporate Climate Change Action Plan.

Considered most significant is the Vancouver Landfill Gas Recovery Project, which has reduced Vancouver’s combined annual GHG emissions from all sources by nearly 10%. Building energy retrofits and the replacement of inefficient facilities have also generated positive gains. An LEED Gold standard requirement has been set for all new civic facilities, while fuel-switching and operational improvements to fleet vehicles have slowed the growth of emissions from civic trucks and cars.

Given this significant progress as well as the City’s commitment to finding new solutions for tackling climate change, the 2012 target for community greenhouse gas emissions may still be within reach. However, the Report is a reminder that its the people living in Vancouver, and not just their City Council, that are ultimately responsible for making their community more environmentally sustainable.

To view the 2007 Climate Protection Progress Report, click the link below.

For More Information: City of Vancouver

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