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Five actions in Vancouver's plan to become world’s greenest city by 2020

Vancouver is upping the ante as it strives to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. It’s not there yet.

A row of Bixi bikes. Vancouver is promising to finally implement a bike share system by 2020.

Metro File

A row of Bixi bikes. Vancouver is promising to finally implement a bike share system by 2020.

Vancouver is pretty chuffed that its plan to become the greenest city in the world by 2020 has garnered praise on the international stage, be it with the pope or the White House.

“We’re happy to report that 100 per cent of popes support the Greenest City Action Plan,” director of sustainability Amanda Pitre-Hayes joked at council on Tuesday.

But the city needs to up the ante and set bolder targets if it wants to actually become the most environmentally sound city in the next five years, Mayor Gregor Robertson said before council unanimously approved the updated plan. Right now, it’s ranked fourth.

“It is very competitive, and what’s driving that competition is cities realizing how much economic benefit, how many jobs are attached to going green,” Robertson said.

Vancouver will need a lot of help from the province and the federal government to achieve its lofty goals – especially when it comes to building the $3-billion Broadway subway. Here are five new actions it plans to take on its own. 

 (Finally) get a bike share system

The city has promised to implement a bike sharing system for a decade, arguing the system will encourage people to stop using cars for short trips – a major tenant of its green transportation goals. But it has been tied up by legal and financial problems of the original supplier it selected.

It swears it’ll be different this time. The city has dumped its original supplier and is on the hunt for a new operator with better technology. City staff is reviewing proposals and expects to come back to council with a recommendation shortly.

A mock up of a warning label that could be affixed to gas pump nozzles.

Contributed

A mock up of a warning label that could be affixed to gas pump nozzles.

Slap warning labels on gas pumps

Would a warning label on a gas pump stop people from driving their fossil fuel powered vehicles the same way a label on a cigarette package might make someone think twice before smoking? The city hopes so.

It intends to create a label warning about either greenhouse gas emissions or air quality in 2016. It’s an idea that a group of Vancouver students called Kids for Climate Action has been pushing for.

An electric car charging station in Gastown.

Matt Desouza/For Metro

An electric car charging station in Gastown.

Ensure plug-ins for electric vehicles

Mayor Robertson wants the city to get ready with plug-ins and chargers for when residents start ditching their gas guzzling cars for electric vehicles. 

“We don’t know when the big push from the market side will come, but we must get the city prepared for that,” he said.

It plans to create a new electric vehicle strategy to encourage people to buy electric. That’s gotta be music to Tesla’s ears.

Trump International Hotel and Tower under construction on Georgia Street in Vancouver in February 2015.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Trump International Hotel and Tower under construction on Georgia Street in Vancouver in February 2015.

Require large towers to report on energy use

Tall apartment towers, condo buildings and commercial offices account for a vast amount of energy use in the city. (Buildings in general account for 55 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.)

The city wants the largest towers to report on their annual energy use so they can create a benchmarking system. Once the city knows how much energy these buildings use, it can start looking at ways to make them more efficient.

A passive house, a type of building that uses extremely low amounts of energy.

Contributed

A passive house, a type of building that uses extremely low amounts of energy.

Require carbon neutral buildings by 2020

Whether someone wants to build a single-family home or a tower, the city will demand it be carbon neutral. This will involve a major shift in policy – not to mention winning over the development community.

The city will update its rezoning policies and its building code to ensure features such as insulation and windows don’t result in energy loss, and it will introduce greenhouse gas emissions targets for new buildings.

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