Rising Gas Prices Underscore the Need for Environmental Action

Further to recent progress reports, and in light of the fact citizens around the world are celebrating Earth Day this week, I am writing to update you on some of the measures we are taking to ensure the City of Vancouver it doing its part to protect the environment. In this report we are featuring:

Mayor Sam Sullivan at Stanley Park

  • Earth Day Sustainability Pledge
  • Green Legislation – Bill 27
  • Volunteer Participation – Keep Vancouver Spectacular!
  • EcoDensity Update
  • Fact Sheet: Well-planned Density Can Help Save our Planet

Sustainability Pledge – Earth Day

Better urban planning and increased density can help save our planet – and in the face of rising energy prices – make our economy more competitive.

In honour of Earth Day, Councillor Suzanne Anton and I made a “30 Days of Sustainability Pledge” which includes the following measures:

  • improved EcoDensity Charter & action items to reflect public consultation
  • promote Athletes Village as North America’s greenest housing development
  • complete green private sector partnerships in association with 2010
  • recognize youth achievement in environmental awareness
  • update UBC rapid transit line consultation plan
  • license more hybrid taxis
  • expand street cleaning services
  • update first phase of Downtown Streetcar
  • ask city staff to consider powering down city buildings each weekend as a legacy of this year’s international Earth Hour celebration

These measures complement our extensive record on the environment over the last two and a half years – including last month’s announcement to deliver new buses for Fraser Street and new Skytrain cars for the Expo Line.

Green Legislation – Bill 27

Another element of our sustainability pledge was to support the efforts of other levels of government to protect the environment. Last week, the provincial government introduced legislation to help municipalities and regional districts create more compact, sustainable and greener communities.

Bill 27 supports the goals and objectives we have identified in our EcoDensity plan, and I again want to commend the Premier and Community Services Minister Ida Chong for bringing this forward. Next week at City Council, we will introduce a motion endorsing this new legislation. It reads as follows:

WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia has announced the introduction of Bill 27, a series of measures that empower municipalities to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and require other sustainability features in both long term plans and individual developments;

AND WHEREAS, the City of Vancouver has been a national and international leader in sustainable development;

AND WHEREAS many elements of Bill 27 directly support the goals of Ecodensity:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED; that the Mayor write to the Premier expressing Council’s full support for Bill 27, and that the Mayor request a meeting between Provincial Staff and City Staff to discuss the implementation of Bill 27, in particular opportunities for the City of Vancouver to take a leading role in the implementation of the Bill and the development of policies, best practices, and training.

Volunteer Participation

Another commitment we made in our sustainability pledge is to participate in community celebrations and events that promote clean and safe neighbourhoods. We are not wasting any time!

This weekend, I will be participating in two special volunteer events. We are launching the Keep Vancouver Spectacular city-wide litter clean-up program tomorrow at the Laughing Bean Coffee Company in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood.

On Sunday, I will be participating in a similar event in Chinatown. Last year, the program again reached a new participation record with 13,500 volunteers joining together in 130 teams to fill over 6,000 bags with litter.

Citizens can register to be a cleanup volunteer or block captain by visiting vancouver.ca/kvs or calling 604-871-6544. We will provide supplies garbage bags, gloves, vests, grabber tongs, waste collection and disposal services.

EcoDensity Update

Mayor Sullivan and Al Gore

In addition to making our city more competitive in the face of rising gas prices, the land use decisions which will flow from Vancouver’s EcoDensity proposal will have a significant impact on reducing city greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month, we completed the latest phase of public consultation on the EcoDensity Charter. Since it was first introduced two years ago, this plan has included one of the most extensive public involvement plans in the history of Vancouver.

As a result of the input we have received – and further to our sustainability pledge, City staff will now make adjustments to the EcoDensity Charter and action items. You will have an opportunity to review these changes and provide input before City Council makes decisions in June.

Well-planned Density Can Help Save our Planet

If concerns about rising fuel prices and the availability of housing options are not enough to underscore the need to implement EcoDensity and Bill 27, these facts may help:

  • On average, residents in higher density cities consume less fossil fuels. The average Houston resident will purchase about 2700 litres of gasoline/year compared to the average Parisienne who purchases about 450 litres/year.
  • Vancouver residents cause 5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions/year – compared to Calgary (17) and Toronto (9).
  • The average downtown Vancouver resident emits approximately 1.5 tonnes of GHG emissions compared to the average Vancouver resident outside the downtown core who emits up to 6 tonnes.
  • With the current projected growth, Vancouver will be nearly as dense as Zurich in 25 years. In 50 years, we will approach the density London has today.
  • If everyone on the planet lived the same way we did in Vancouver, it would take approximately 4 planet earths to sustain us.
  • In 2008, Vancouver plans to add a record 76 km of new bike lanes in the City. This year, Vancouver will pass a milestone of developing over 400 km of bike lanes within our city limits.
  • Implementing the 1997 Vancouver Transportation Plan that placed a priority on pedestrian, cycling and transit improvements resulted in an increase in walking trips of 44%, bike trips of 180%, and a decrease in vehicle trips in and out of the city by 10% over the last decade (1997-2007).
  • Over 70% of all trips in Vancouver’s downtown are now done by foot, bicycle or alternate forms of transit.
  • Based on the 2006 census, 70,500 Vancouver residents took transit to work, 34,250 walked and 10,500 cycled. These actions reduced GHG emissions by over 100,000 tonnes/year compared to if the trips were made by car.
  • Once the Canada Line is fully operational, it will provide additional transportation capacity equivalent to 10 major road lanes.