Climate crisis and inequality: Metro Vancouver 2050 plan to connect two burning issues

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      It’s because a green planet isn’t only for those who can afford it.

      Metro Vancouver is updating its regional growth strategy with an aim to connect two of the most serious issues in the world: climate change and social inequality.

      The district’s current strategy, titled ‘Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future’, was adopted in 2011, and an updated version is expected to be finalized in 2022.

      “The comprehensive update to Metro 2040 will build on its strengths, extend the strategy’s time horizon to the year 2050, integrate with the update to the Regional Transportation Strategy, and strengthen current policies and address policy gaps,” states a report to the district’s regional planning committee, which meets Friday (July 5).

      The report was authored by Sean Tynan and Lucy Duso, acting senior planner and policy coordinator for external relations, respectively.

      “Two major policy areas have been identified as significant gaps in Metro 2040 - climate action and equity,” according to Tynan and Duso.

      That is anticipated to change with Metro Vancouver 2050.

      “The intent is to explore using both climate action and equity as lenses through which to view all regional growth strategy policies,” Tynan and Duso wrote.

      The seeds for this approach are contained in a paper released by Metro Vancouver in September 2018.

      Titled ‘Climate 2050: Strategic Framework’, the document noted that climate change will “not affect everyone in the region to the same degree”.

      “Lower income and socially marginalized populations will have more difficulty coping with the impacts of climate change,” the paper noted. “Those with less financial resources will have fewer options to protect themselves when a major weather event occurs, and may have more difficulty recovering from impacts. They are more likely to have more difficulty adapting their homes to protect them from extreme weather events, less access to green spaces or air conditioning, and may have underlying health issues that can be exacerbated by extreme heat and air pollution.”

      This means climate mitigation and adaptation should consider those with lesser means in life.

      “Policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate must not exacerbate existing economic, social, or geographic disparities,” according to Climate 2050. “The design of policies and programs should consider how low carbon options for transportation and buildings can be accessible to all Metro Vancouver residents.”

      A 2017 report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada indicated that Metro Vancouver has the third highest rate of income inequality in the country.

      CPA Canada’s chief economist Francis Fong wrote in the report that the after-tax inequality in Metro Vancouver increased 2.5 times since 1982. The metropolitan regions of Calgary and Toronto posted higher increases at four and three times, respectively.