Vancouver City Council Passes Motion to Make City 100 Per Cent Fossil-fuel Free

Refinery at Night

By Arman Kazemi

April 2, 2015

Vancouver city council has unanimously committed to eliminating fossil fuels from the city and going 100 per cent renewable in the coming years.

The motion, introduced last week by Mayor Gregor Robertson, directs city staff to develop “a long range Climate Action Plan” with a timeline and actionable targets to be delivered back to council by next fall, all with the goal of shifting to 100 per cent renewable energy sources in the city.

Robertson and Vision Vancouver, the ruling civic party, have been pushing since at least 2010 to rebrand Vancouver as “the greenest city in the world.” This move is just the latest chapter in the ongoing effort.

With the motion’s unanimous and bipartisan approval, the City of Vancouver has become the first in North America to make such a commitment, according to a statement on the mayor’s website.

“The future of Vancouver’s economy and livability will depend on our ability to confront and adapt to climate change,” Robertson says in the statement, “and moving toward renewable energy is another way that Vancouver is working to become the greenest city in the world.”

Like the rest of B.C., Vancouver already relies in large part on renewables thanks to hydroelectricity infrastructure throughout the province. Yet Vancouverites still depend heavily on fossil fuels and natural gas to heat their homes and cook their food, which is why only 32 per cent of the city’s current energy demand is met by renewable energy, according to the motion.

The immediate purpose of Wednesday’s motion is to establish a framework for moving toward a full decommissioning of fossil fuels in the city by 2050, with the potential benefits to the economy and jobs growth that such a switch entails.

The costs resulting from the effects of climate change in Metro Vancouver alone are estimated at around $9.5 billion, according to the motion.

The move may be timed to coincide with a report earlier this month by a coalition of Canadian scientists admonishing the federal government to act swiftly on climate policy in order to align Canada with its own stated climate mitigation targets. The further prospect of a definitive climate conference to be held in Paris next December is yet another motive for provinces and municipalities to act in the absence of concrete federal leadership.

Thanks to the earlier Greenest City Action Plan, Vancouver has already seen a six per cent reduction in GHG emissions since 2007, paralleling unprecedented job and population growth since the early nineties.

Vancouver has a “moral imperative” to cut GHG emissions, Andrea Reimer, Robertson’s Vision colleague on city council, told the Vancouver Observer.

“Cities that own renewables will own the future,” she says. And that, presumably, goes for countries as well.