While an oil spill spread across Vancouver’s English Bay, Vancouver deputy mayor Andrea Reimer, by a pure accident of timing, was in Seoul, Korea for the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), at which Vancouver pledged to run entirely on green energy sources by either 2030 or 2035, less than 20 years from now.
With both Vancouver’s mayor and British Columbia’s premier blasting the federal coast guard response to Vancouver’s oil spill as “totally inadequate”, the federal government is again on the back foot in terms of its non-position on environmental issues.
Meanwhile, municipal, provincial and state governments are now bargaining over the head of the federal government, making bilateral agreements along the lines of Quebec’s cap and trade agreement with California, which is about to expand to include Ontario next week.
Deputy mayor Andrea Reimer told the Guardian in Seoul, “There’s a compelling moral imperative but also a fantastic economic case to be a green city.”
The ICLEI pledge involves a commitment for cities to derive all of their energy needs, for electricity, heating, cooling and transportation, from green sources within a specific time frame.
“As I like to say, ‘Think global, act local,'” said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre at the ICLEI conference. “I strongly believe that actions have to come from cities. We are the frontline when it comes to climate change. By joining the Compact of Mayors, Montreal makes the commitment with other leading cities worldwide to fight for cleaner air, a greener planet, a better sustainable future.”
The Compact of Mayors provides both a means for commitment and a transparent method for municipal governments worldwide to meaningfully collaborate on greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
“One of the most effective ways cities are fighting climate change is through the Compact of Mayors,” said Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Cities and Climate Change. “The Compact reflects the commitment that cities are making to reduce carbon emissions and the crucial role they play in creating a healthier future. As nations come together to negotiate a global climate treaty later this year, the Compact of Mayors offers proof that international cooperation on climate change can produce big results.”
The conference, which wraps up on April 12, gathers over 15,000 delegates, including 100 mayors. Other municipalities that have committed at the same time as Vancouver and Montreal include Paris, Melbourne, Johannesburg, and Medellin.
“Climate change will be tackled at the city and regional level,” said Seoul mayor Park Won Soon. “City-level activities account for 70% of global greenhouse emissions, and the majority of climate actions that contribute to global climate goals occur in cities. Particularly in developing countries, cities are facing unprecedented levels of urbanization over the coming decades, making the need for effective local climate action ever more urgent.”
Seoul, with a population of 11 million, is rolling out a program to install solar panels on over 40,000 household rooftops by 2018 and to introduce a fleet of 15,000 electric vehicles.
“People will embrace significant action when they see significant leadership and they have the tools to act.” – Vancouver deputy mayor Andrea Reimer
Vancouver City Council has already resolved to become the world’s greenest city by 2020, an objective complicated by its relationship with one of “the most environmentally irresponsible national governments” in the world, according to Reimer.
“People will embrace significant action when they see significant leadership and they have the tools to act,” she added.
In Vancouver, developer Ian Gillespie has already taken some private initiative, through his company Creative Energy, to push Vancouver towards thermal energy heating systems, cutting its reliance on gas and electricity.
Earlier this year, he bought Vancouver’s largest energy utility, Central Heat, which currently uses natural gas to heat the city’s downtown core, with the intention of converting it to run clean, which alone would reduce Vancouver’s CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons per year.
Meanwhile, BC Hydro is getting into smart design initiatives, including the 53-storey Telus Garden and 24-storey Telus HQ project, which will use recovered heat generated by the adjacent Telus data centre to power their energy needs.
Alberta premier Jim Prentice has already made clear that he won’t be attending next week’s Quebec City premier’s meeting focusing on climate change, sending two bureaucrats instead.
Perhaps Alberta won’t be a total wash in the push for green energy, though, with Medicine Hat unveiling its plan for the world’s most northerly solar power plant, a $10 million facility that will provide 25% of the city’s energy needs by 2025.
B.C. premier Christy Clark will also be absent because of a conflicting engagement with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meeting, taking place in Washington, D.C.
After next week’s Quebec City premier’s meeting, which will no doubt have Vancouver’s oil spill providing both a backdrop and catalyst, attention will shift to the Paris Climate Conference in December.