Vancouver making green gains five years after launch of Greenest City Action Team

Five years after the launch of the Greenest City Action Team, new programs and policies are delivering benefits in neighbourhoods across the city, says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

"Vancouver residents have really stepped up and helped the city become healthier, stronger, and greener," said Mayor Gregor Robertson. "No matter what street you walk down in Vancouver, you see the results of our Greenest City Action Plan. We have weekly food scraps collection in place. We’ve supported the big growth of car sharing with Modo and car2go. New buildings are built to the greenest building code in North America, saving residents money on energy and water costs.

"These are important changes that make our city a better place to live, creating sustainable jobs in Vancouver’s growing economy while protecting our environment. Vancouver can lead the world and set the green standard for cities around the globe. We should aim to be the best."

Mayor Robertson launched the Greenest City Action Team on February 25, 2009, comprised of environmental and business leaders such as David Suzuki, former Premier Mike Harcourt, former City Councillor Gordon Price and VanCity Credit Union CEO Tamara Vrooman. Following the release of a Quick Starts report in the spring of 2009, the City embarked on an extensive two-year consultation process. In July 2011, Council approved the Greenest City Action Plan, which set out fifteen targets in ten environmental policy areas covering climate leadership, to clean air and water, to local food and energy efficiency, each with detailed metrics so the City and residents can track progress.

Since then, the City has implemented over a hundred projects that support the Greenest City goals. Some of these include:

  • Weekly curbside food scraps collection for over 110,000 homes
  • Approving the greenest building code in North America, with new standards for energy efficiency building design and water reduction (and further planned updates in 2017 and 2020 to get to a carbon neutral building standard)
  • Providing underused city land to inner city employment programs for local food projects, including North America's largest urban orchard at Main and Terminal
  • Approving the first comprehensive Climate Adaptation Strategy of any city in Canada
  • The launch of the Greenest City Fund, a $2 million, four-year grant fund in partnership with the Vancouver Foundation, which supports resident-driven, neighbourhood-based actions on the environment
  • Piloting a deconstruction project which diverted 94% of building waste from landfill

Progress on the Vancouver’s Greenest City targets include:

  • A 10% increase in people walking, biking, and taking transit, from 40% of all trips in 2008 up to 44% in 2012.
  • A 4% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions since 2007, despite population and the economy growing.
  • 2013 saw the city surpass 4,000 community garden plots, expanding food access for neighbourhoods throughout Vancouver.

Mayor Robertson says that although much has been achieved, there is still more work to do.

"We won't be able to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets, or green transportation goals, without a Broadway Subway," said the Mayor. "It's the single project that will have the biggest impact in terms of getting cars off the road, reducing congestion to create cleaner air, and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. With over 50% of Broadway transit trips coming from outside of Vancouver, a subway doesn't just benefit Vancouver, it benefits the whole region in terms of the environment and the economy.”