A genuine green city

Vancouver is aiming to be the world’s greenest city and we’re busy winning international awards to prove it. But awards don’t paint the whole picture, like the underlying fact that Vancouver ranks high on the global list of green cities not because of any new city initiative but because our electricity comes from hydroelectric sources instead of fossil fuels. 

We need to be honest and transparent in assessing our green city actions. Can we really meet our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent below 2007 levels by 2020 when we’ve only reduced them by 6 percent since 2007? Can we realistically require all new building construction to be carbon neutral starting in 2020 when our building code still only requires “solar readiness”? 

We need metrics: Vancouver’s greenest city reports need to present net changes. For example, we need to report on the loss of home gardens, not just new garden plots so we accurately know whether we’re becoming more food self-sufficient. We need to report on the loss of big trees, not just how many young trees we’ve planted, and report on the impacts of congestion, not just the number of new electric vehicle charging stations. It’s the net result of all of our actions that determines our progress. 

The Vancouver Green Team believes it’s better if we stop trying to be “the greenest city” along with the distraction of trying to prove it, and focus on becoming a genuine green city.

A genuine green city is a sustainable city that meets the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations. It means producing our own food and energy from renewable sources so that we’re as self-sufficient as possible. It means reducing, re-using and recycling our wastes so they don’t pollute our air, water and soil. It means rapidly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

Our work to be a genuine green city must be integrated into all of our city’s transportation, planning and housing policies. Densification is not genuinely green if we’re still building energy-inefficient highrises, or if our failure to build sufficient affordable housing means people have to commute from the suburbs, or if we’re allowing three older solidly-built homes and their gardens per day to be bulldozed to make way for resource-consuming monster homes. 

As a Vancouver Green City Councillor, Adriane Carr made sure goals to reduce greenhouse gasses were highlighted in Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 plan. She argued to get long-term security for community gardens. She pushed Council to take a strong stand against Kinder Morgan’s plans to ship more bitumen from our harbour.  She’s advocated for more support for emergency preparedness because ensuring we’re prepared for emergencies is part of being genuinely green: protecting people and our environment and meeting the challenges that threaten the safety and security of our future. 

Your Council Green Team will work for: 

A 2050 green city action plan focused on key targets

Match our climate goal to international targets. Scientists and governments around the world have already set clear targets for greenhouse gas reductions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Focus on the most critical actions to achieve sustainability: Growing more of our own food, producing our own energy from renewable sources, reducing our wastes and carbon emissions, maintaining a healthy natural environment.

Establish accurate baselines and measure net changes. Calculate our full ecological footprint (our draw on resources and environmental impact both within and beyond our city limits) so we accurately know the changes needed to be more sustainable. Include air travel emissions, as Seattle does.^TOP

Producing our own energy

Maximize solar energy production. Bulk order solar PVC (photo-voltaic cells) for residents and businesses, as Cowichan has just done. In our building code, require solar hot water systems, which reduce water-heating requirements year round.

Make the City of Vancouver a solar energy leader. Refit city buildings with solar voltaic cells and thermal solar panels so that we become a net generator of renewable energy.

Create urban design guidelines for planning solar-friendly new development.

Launch a competition to design a multi-home solar housing project. Designate a city property as the site.^TOP

Truly tackling global warming

Ramp up energy requirements in our Building Code to meet the current target of all new construction being carbon neutral by 2020. Increase from the current EnerGuide 80 standard to Passive House standards of EnerGuide 88 or better.

Ramp up requirements for electric vehicles in our Building Code but make sure the measures are practical. Revise the 2014 Code to practical standards for EV charging stations. Increase the requirement for EV-ready parking stalls, currently at 20 percent of stalls.

Offer property tax incentives for out-of-pocket renovation costs that convert existing buildings to zero net energy, just as we do for renovations that preserve heritage buildings.

Pursue establishing a Vancouver Carbon Fund, like Saanich, that could enable individuals, companies and institutions to donate an equivalent to purchasing GhG offsets, with the money used exclusively for grants and loans to retrofit older buildings for energy efficiency.

• Continue to fight Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand its pipeline and shipments of bitumen out of Vancouver. We can’t be an oil port and be a genuine green city.

Switch faster in our own city operations to electric or non-fossil-fuel equipment, for example, to maintain our city’s parks and green space.

Calculate actual congestion and reduce it as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Make comparative data available on the energy efficiency of different forms of construction as part of all reference reports for redevelopment applications.^TOP

Food self-sufficiency 

Develop a specific plan to increase urban agriculture, and collaborate with institutions such as Kwantlen College that are setting up pilot urban agriculture projects.

Provide long-term security for community gardens.

Allow organic urban agriculture in residential zones.

Inventory all food production, including backyard gardens, and report annually on net changes to food production in the city.

Ban the use of GMO plants and seeds, as they contribute to bee colony collapse.^TOP

Zero waste and waste diversion  

Reduce, re-use and recycle wastes, placing an emphasis on waste diversion. Request that the provincial government change the Vancouver Charter to allow us to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.

Reduce demolition waste by pursuing increases in demolition fees and dump fees, and expand policies that require deconstruction to apply to all buildings.

• Engage youth in educational efforts that teach people how to reduce waste, potentially through a new city summer youth employment program.

• Encourage the BC government to restore higher deposit fees on recyclable containers. Pursue the suggestion raised by Councillor Adriane Carr of placing a deposit fee on cigarettes to encourage their recycling.

• Don’t pursue waste-to-energy garbage incineration.^TOP

A healthy natural environment and healthy city

Develop a “toxic-free” plan for the city’s air, soil and water. Advocate for a return to full Air Care emissions testing of vehicles.

• Address noise pollution as a livability issue. Enforce noise restrictions on vehicles, construction, alarms and devices that exceed the noise by-laws. Better equip police and bylaw officers to respond to noise complaints with more sound metering equipment.

• Expand parks and green space, especially large natural parks. Ensure there are sufficient city arborists to maintain a healthy urban forest canopy, especially our city’s mature trees.

Encourage green roofs and water capture in the city’s building bylaws. Consider, as Toronto has done, requiring a certain portion of larger buildings’ roofs to be green.

• Develop an urban design plan for a healthy city that includes inter-connected greenways and parks, walking and cycling paths and complete walkable neighbourhoods.^TOP

Emergency preparedness

Realistically plan for projected risks and emergencies related to climate change including increasing flood protection levels science determines are necessary. 

Continue to lobby the federal government to restore emergency planning funds (JEPP, HUSAR) and the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Provide some modest support to the Marine Lifesaving Society, which is filling in the gap left by the shut down of our local Coast Guard station. 

Change the building code to require secure “key boxes” in all high-rises and multi-unit dwellings for police and firefighter emergency access. 

• Reassess the pace of seismic upgrades to city infrastructure and buildings, while ensuring publically owned heritage buildings are retained, restored, upgraded and protected. 

• Provide earthquake kits, at cost, to residents.