Vancouver City Council recently received progress updates on two of the city’s core environmental plans: the Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP) and the Climate Emergency Response. Both policies advance Vancouver’s contributions to climate solutions and support a future that safeguards the natural environment while supporting a resilient economy.

Highlights of the GCAP efforts:

  • Green Economy – A 35 per cent growth in green jobs since 2010, with a particular increase related to design and construction of green buildings.
  • Green Transportation – A 37 per cent decrease in the average distance driven per resident since 2007, with 64 per cent of residents walking, cycling, or taking transit to work.
  • Access to Nature – The planting of 139,000 new trees since 2010 to support the urban forest, and the Park Board’s VanPlay goal to create a vast, green network that will connect parks, waterfront and recreation areas.
  • Zero Waste – A 32 per cent decrease in solid waste going to landfill and incinerator since 2008. Going forward, there will be a focus not just on recycling, but also on reducing consumption and reusing as much as possible.
  • Local Food – A doubling of food assets, meaning more community gardens and fresh, local produce available in the city.

City staff reported that Vancouver has exceeded GCAP 2020 targets for Green Transportation, Local Food, and Access to Nature and the that the city is leading the way with its own operations by making progress on corporate carbon pollution and waste diversion.

According to the report, GCAP has created a strong foundation for climate action and positioned Vancouver as a North American leader when it comes to sustainable building codes and transportation. Combined with provincial and federal climate actions, GCAP has decreased carbon pollution from the city’s largest sources – buildings, transportation and solid waste – by nearly 22,000 tonnes per year since it launched, while increasing our resiliency by preparing for a 100 per cent renewable energy future.

However, the report argues that these efforts are “not enough.” In 2019, carbon pollution was down 9 per cent from our 2007 baseline, falling short of the 2020 target of a 33 per cent reduction. Vancouver will need to take much bolder climate action to flatten the curve on the climate crisis. In fact, City Council declared a Climate Emergency last year to acknowledge the urgency of climate change and commit to scaling-up the city’s work.

Recommendations approved in the Climate Emergency Response call for acceleration of carbon pollution reductions by nearly five-fold – an average of 102,000 tonnes per year – to achieve the City’s 2030 target.

Progress on the 53 Climate Emergency accelerated actions was also presented to Council: nine are complete, 30 are on track, and 14 are delayed.

Highlights of climate action efforts:

  • Transportation Infrastructure – Completion of 12km priority bus lane on 41 Ave., which adds one-third capacity while reducing travel times on the second busiest bus corridor in the region.
  • EV Network – Addition of six new DC fast chargers and seven Level 2 EV chargers to Vancouver’s public electric vehicle charging network
  • Near-Zero Buildings – Near-zero emissions space and water heating requirements in the Vancouver Building Bylaw for new low-rise residential buildings
  • Amendments to the Building Bylaw – Changes to allow mass timber construction for buildings up to 12 stories, reducing carbon-related pollution from typical concrete construction by 25-45 per cent while improving energy efficiency and insulation effectiveness

The Climate Emergency Action Plan, which is the new five-year action plan, will be brought to Council this fall. It is currently being developed with input from Vancouver residents, businesses and stakeholders. To help secure a central place for equity within the City’s climate emergency and sustainability work moving forward, a Climate and Equity Working Group has been formed and is providing input.

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