Coun. Christine Boyle's aims to dramatically ramp up City of Vancouver's climate actions

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      In the 10 years that Gregor Robertson was mayor of Vancouver, the city made some progress in addressing climate change.

      By 2017, the city had reduced community-based greenhouse-gas emissions by seven percent below the 2007 level.

      That's according to the 2017–2018 Implementation Update of the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.

      It's still a long way from the goal of 33 percent by 2020.

      According to the same report, greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings were down 5 percent from 2007 to 2017.

      Nevertheless, that fell far short of the stated objective of 20 percent.

      Over the same period, there was a 36 percent drop in vehicle kilometres driven per person.

      By 2017, about 48 percent of trips were being made by foot, transit, and bike, up from 40 percent in 2007.

      The city's ecological footprint was down by 20 percent since 2006.

      Vancouver has also developed a climate-adaptation strategy, approved a plan for zero-emission buildings by 2030, and set a target of becoming completely reliant on renewable energy by 2050.

      Councillor says city faces an emergency

      This week, a rookie councillor wants to expand on these initiatives by adding new actions to help the city achieve its climate targets.

      OneCity's Christine Boyle has brought forward a motion asking that council "recognize the breakdown of the stable climate and sea level under which human civilization developed constitutes an emergency for the City of Vancouver".

      Her motion points out that the 7 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions in Vancouver since 2007 is "an average reduction of less than 1% each year over the past decade".

      "An average annual reduction of over 3% is necessary to meet the City's 2030 targets," the motion states.

      She's seeking council's approval to direct staff to report back in 90 days with more ambitious and/or accelerated timelines in the Renewable City Action Plan and Climate Adaptation Strategy.

      Boyle wants council to direct staff to "add new actions that would help reduce GHG emissions beyond the scope of the City's current climate targets".

      And she's hoping that this will include achieving "net negative carbon emissions in the second half of the century".

      All of that would be supplemented with a carbon budget for corporate and community emissions. According to her, it should be "commensurate with limiting warming to 1.5°C", and monitored through annual reports.

      In the preamble, Boyle notes that wildfires broke the record for square kilometres burned in B.C. in each of the last two years.

      Moreover, last year's California wildfires killed more than 100 people and caused more than $14.5 billion in insured losses.

      A record number of hectares were burned in B.C. wildfires in each of the last two years.
      B.C. Wildfire Service

      Temperature increases can lead to feedbacks

      Her motion points out that the world is on track "for more than 3°C of warming based on policies currently in place, and those policies will need to be strengthened significantly to limit warming to 1.5°C".

      In the preceding paragraph, Boyle is referring to the rise in the average global temperature above the period before the Industrial Revolution.

      In fact, average global temperatures could rise as high as 7.8 °C by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if uncertainties such as amplifying feedbacks are factored in.

      These feedbacks, including the release of massive amounts of stored carbon in oceans, are considered a near certainty once average global temperatures rise by 3 °C.

      Boyle is also hoping that council will direct staff to create a climate and equity working group to advise and support the city as it transitions off fossil fuels. 

      Her motion is on the Tuesday (January 15) council agenda, but is likely to be heard at a subsequent committee meeting on the following day.

      This would enable to the public to offer input to the mayor and council.