In 2009, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson made a bold assertion; by 2020, Vancouver would be the greenest city in the world. He wasn’t joking either. Robertson and his Greenest City Action Team set out 10 long term goals to achieve greenest city status. They also made 44 recommendations for short term improvements, two thirds of which have already been implemented. Vancouver is not only Canada’s greenest city; it also has the lowest carbon emissions per capita of any North American city. The emission levels have been reduced to 1990 levels, despite a large increase in population. Large cities are notorious for consuming more than their share of natural resources while producing more greenhouse gases than their rural neighbours. Vancouver is proof that a city can be a vibrant, burgeoning, dynamic concourse while practicing more sustainable energy consumption.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities contributed $324, 500 for the planning and research required to determine whether Vancouver’s goals are attainable and to create a plan that will plot their course to the 2020 deadline. The Canadian government has set aside $550 million to help the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to reduce climate change and improve the quality of soil, air and water in the provinces.
The yellow brick road to create an emerald city
Initiatives that have already paid dividends include a curb-side compost project, the creation of an advanced building code and various renewable energy projects.
A solar homes pilot project has provided a $3 000 rebate for 30 homeowners who installed solar hot water heaters. An additional $500 rebate is offered by the LiveSmart Energy Efficiency Program. This program offers rebates to home owners who create more efficient homes. There is no limit to the amount a homeowner can receive — the rebates are calculated on the energy efficiency of the renovations done. The Vancouver city government will assist homeowners with audits to ascertain what improvements will yield the most energy savings. They will also guide home and business owners when selecting a contractor that best suits their needs.
Improved motorcycle and scooter parking and bike lanes encourage commuters to use less carbon-dense methods of transportation. Building and parking lot by-laws have been altered to make allowances for electric vehicles, which the city hopes will make up 15 percent of their vehicles by 2020. Municipal vehicle greenhouse gas emissions have already been reduced by 20%.
All new building rezonings are to be Gold LEED certified. 54 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Vancouver are created by buildings. This building policy will result in the creation of 20 to 30 green buildings annually.
The city has outlined several areas requiring attention in the short term, including retrofitting homes, institutions and commercial buildings with energy saving renovations. Changing to low emission vehicles and utilizing biodiesel fuel are also fields receiving attention. Greening new buildings is a priority. The city also hopes to encourage and advocate methods for residents to reduce their personal carbon footprint.
The city seems well on its way to achieving its goals. The mayor hopes that this course will encourage the growth of jobs in the green collar sector, save the city money and create one of the cleanest, greenest cities in the world.