Responding to the local consequences of climate change, City Council endorsed the 2050 target of deriving 100-per cent of energy used in Vancouver from renewable sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent below 2007 levels.
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Vancouver is the first large North American city to aim for 100-percent use of renewable energy for residential and commercial buildings and the elimination of car powered by fossil fuels.
Vancouver has seen a number of changes associated with the global use of fossil fuels including sea-level rise, more frequent and more severe heat waves, increased frequency and severity of storms, increased winter rainfall, summer droughts and less snow.
The City plans to achieve its goal by adopting zero-emission standards for new buildings in Vancouver, changing vehicles in the City’s fleet by shifting away from natural gas to renewable hydro-electric energy, streamlining the process for installation of solar-panels on buildings, promoting a sharing economy and implementing carbon-pollution pricing at the municipal-operations level.
The City will take measures to retrofit existing buildings to perform like new construction, support onsite generation or neighbourhood energy system connections, and offer incentives to facilitate modest retrofits. The City will support conversion of downtown and hospital steam systems from natural gas to renewable energy and enable development of new neighbourhood renewable energy systems on the Cambie corridor and downtown. The City will foster land use to improve transportation and enhance the pedestrian network and the cycling infrastructure. The City is committed to adopting a comprehensive approach for pricing carbon emissions for municipal operations.
Burning fossil fuels worsens air quality, has direct impacts on human health, accelerates the loss of natural habitats and affects agricultural production. Vancouver’s energy use is currently 69 per cent non-renewable. Fossil fuels are used primarily for space heat, hot water, cars, vans and trucks. The city uses around 59-million gigajoules (GJ) of energy annually and releases 2.8 million tonnes of CO2.
The City of Vancouver initiated climate action in 1990 with endorsement of the Clouds of Change reports. Some City Council initiatives in subsequent years include:
2005 – Adoption of the Community Climate Change Action Plan.
2011 – Approval of the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.
2013 – Approval of a new building bylaw effective March 20, 2014. New one- and two-family dwellings must meet increased energy-efficiency requirements, such as improved insulation, air-tightness and use of high-efficiency heating systems. Also, buildings under renovation require energy audits and minor upgrades. By 2020, the City is aiming for all new buildings to be carbon-neutral in operations.
2014 – Raising flood-construction levels, as set out in amendments to the building bylaw, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in existing buildings, as set out in the Energy Retrofit Strategy for Existing Buildings.
2015 – Vancouver is on track to meet its target for trips by walk/bike/transit for 2020. The Transportation Panel Survey, in a report released in April 2016, found that 49.5 percent of people in the survey were travelling by walk/bike/transit in 2015. Trips by walking increased to 27 percent, from 26 percent. Cycling rose to 7 percent, from 5 percent. Those using transit dropped to 16 percent, from 18 percent in the previous year.
2015 – Endorsement of the Renewable City Strategy.
City of Vancouver. (2015, November). Renewable Energy Strategy. Executive summary. Retrieved from: https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/renewable-city-strategy-summary.pdf
City of Vancouver. (Undated). Why a Renewable City. Retrieved from: https://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/why-renewable-city.aspx
City of Vancouver. (2012) Climate Change Adaption Strategy. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Vancouver-Climate-Change-Adaptation-Strategy-2012-11-07.pdf
City of Vancouver (Undated). Greenest City Action Plan. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/greenest-city-action-plan.aspx
City of Vancouver. (2015). Transportation Panel Survey. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Transportation-panel-survey-2015-final-report.pdf
City of Vancouver. (2015). Vancouver First Major City in North America to Approve 100% Renewable Energy Strategy. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/vancouver-approves-100-per-cent-renewable-energy-strategy.aspx
City of Vancouver. Map of sea level rise impacts in the year 2010. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/flood-proofing-buildings.aspx
City of Vancouver. (2014) Climate Change Adaption Strategy. Amendments to building bylaw to address increased risk of flood damage. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/climate-change-adaptation-strategy.aspx
City of Vancouver (2013) Vancouver Building Bylaw effective in 2014. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/vancouver-building-bylaw.aspx
Link to more 2015 emerging milestones