Friendly Competition - Vancouver's Bid to Become the World's Greenest City
July 25, 2011
There are differences in environmental priorities between U.S. and Canadian cities. Canadians are more aligned with Europeans when it comes to carbon emissions and energy use. They are more willing than Americans to invest in emissions reductions and energy efficiency... If wealth is taken into account, however, all of the Canadian cities punch well above their weight. Despite an average per capita GDP $7,000 lower than the average of the 22 US cities in the Index, Canadian cities rank nine to ten places higher than they would be expected to given their lower income.One of Vancouver's strongest categories in the Green City rankings is carbon dioxide, at 91.4 points. The Economist researchers write that
The city emits just 4.2 metric tons of CO2 per person, well below the Index average of 14.5 metric tons. Measured against economic output, Vancouver emits just an estimated 111 metric tons of CO2 per $1 million of GDP, compared with the Index average of 296 metric tons. The city's low emissions are a result of policies geared at green energy promotion and the dominance of hydropower in Vancouver's energy grid.
Friendly Competition: A Good Thing?David Cadman
|1. [Becoming the world's Green Economy Capital||Secure Vancouver's international reputation as a mecca of green enterprise||Create 20,000 new green jobs|
|2. Climate Leadership||Eliminate Vancouver's dependence on fossil fuels||Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent from 2007 levels|
|3. Green Buildings||Lead the world in green building design and construction||All new construction carbon neutral; improve efficiency of existing buildings by 20 per cent|
|4. Green Mobility||Make walking, cycling, and public transit preferred transportation options||Make the majority of trips (over 50 per cent) on foot, bicycle, and public transit|
|5. Zero Waste||Create zero waste||Reduce solid waste per capita going to landfill or incinerator by 40 per cent|
|6. Easy Access To Nature||Provide incomparable access to green spaces, including the world's most spectacular urban forest||Every person lives within a five-minute walk of a park, beach, greenway, or other natural space; plant 150,000 additional trees in the city|
|7. Lighter Footprint||Achieve a one-planet ecological footprint||Reduce per capita ecological footprint by 33 per cent|
|8. Clean Water||Enjoy the best drinking water of any major city in the world||Always meet or beat the strongest of B.C., Canada, and World Health Organization drinking water standards; reduce per capita water consumption by 33 per cent|
|9. Clean Air||Breathe the cleanest air of any major city in the world||Always meet or beat World Health Organization air quality guidelines, which are stronger than Canadian guidelines|
|10. Local Food||Become a global leader in urban food systems||Reduce the carbon footprint of our food by 33 per cent|
Cities as Hotbeds of Green InnovationCadman believes cities are well-suited to serve as sources of environmental innovation. Whereas "national governments don't seem to be able to get their act together" to move forward on green initiatives, he tells me, "local governments are transforming the world around them."
At the same time, cities concentrate large numbers of people into small places, and they also concentrate the knowledge, financial, social and institutional resources required for sustainability-oriented innovations. This captures the dilemma of cities for sustainability: they drive the global unsustainable use of resources, but they are also where the greatest potential exists for sustainability-oriented innovations.Cities, the report asserts, have both the motivation and the intellectual capital to foster innovations in such areas as "sustainable transportation, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, increased dependence on locally grown food and localized supply of (recycled) water, compact urban form and much higher densities, integrated living and working neighborhoods, zero waste systems, cleaner production, and responsible ecologically sustainable consumption."
Future Life in the World's Greenest CityHow will Vancouver be different in 2020, once it has become the world's "greenest city"? Cadman says,
By the time peak oil hits and gas prices skyrocket, it'll be a more compact city. More people will walk and cycle and take public transportation, and buildings will be more efficient. We're going to have a different style of living -- more healthy, more wholesome, and less onerous in terms of our footprint on the planet. The most exciting thing about this is the way young people are taking to it. They like the idea of growing their own food. They're happy getting around on their bike or skateboard or walking or on public transportation. It's a generation of kids who get it, who know we can't continue to live as if there were four planets. There's only one.