Greenest City 2020 Action Plan: A look at Vancouver’s bright green future

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Vancouver Greenest City 2020

Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It consistently ranks as one of the top livable cities worldwide for quality of life. Not a bad thing to be known for and despite the current housing costs, and the Stanley Cup riots of 2011, Vancouver is continuing to gain global status and hosts a promising future. 

To become a well-acclaimed and identifiable city in the world such as New York and their wall street pace of life or the fashion mecca that is London or Paris, you must be recognized as being the best or authority in a world-class industry. These cities are well branded. Take away the mountains, ocean, and scenery and what is Vancouver truly known for?

Vancouver is much smaller in size in comparison but is growing and plays host to nearly nine million visitors a year. The benefit of being smaller and as relatively young as Vancouver is there’s still a unique opportunity to create a clear, well branded identity and legacy for the city to live by. This comes in the form of strategic planning, design, and of course hard work. A big part of this future planning and design for B.C’s largest city centers on the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP). But what exactly does this action plan include and what can it really do for Vancouver?

What do you even think of when you think “green”? Solar panels, efficient transportation systems, organic gardening? It’s easy to get lost in this term and what it truly represents. The biggest sector among this massive industry comes in the form of renewable and alternative energy solutions. The total investment in this sector alone reached $257 billion globally in 2011, so it’s no surprise that B.C being such an energy and resource rich province would want to get a very large piece of that pie.  A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study predicts that the B.C independent and alternative power sector alone could inject $26.1 billion into the provincial economy by 2020.

That ties right into the city of Vancouver’s plan and energetic goal of being the Greenest City in the world by 2020. The cities Action Plan was adopted back in July 2011 with Mayor Gregor Roberston stating, “The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan puts us on a clear path towards a more healthy, resilient and prosperous city, both now and for future generations.”

Now, a little over a year later, have you noticed any change in the city? Have you been invited to or participated in any city events or projects to help accomplish this goal? Maybe Vancouver could become the next Silicon Valley for alternative energy creating thousands of local jobs, maybe our children will be the future green leaders of the world to learn from, maybe not – but at least this aggressive and forward-thinking goal has been set and they have the plan. If you haven’t read the 77-page action plan document or followed the various related city groups you may have wondered what this plan actually entails as few details have been provided to the public regarding exactly how Robertson planned to translate his green concept into greenbacks. Separated bike lanes, backyard chickens and vegetable gardens may be well intentioned, but they will hardly generate the 20,000 new “green” jobs Robertson had promised within the city’s boundaries.

The plan itself is very thorough and had over 35,000 people contribute to it through public consultations. On July 25th, 2012 the City of Vancouver was proud to be named the winner of the 2012 Sustainable Communities Award for their Action Plan. This is a great start and shows the plan itself is comprehensive, well received and is now being recognized. The city is now onto the next step, which requires substantial investments to turn these ideas into reality, have the world take notice and really accelerate the plan into action.  Progress is under way as The University of British Columbia (UBC) just celebrated the opening of a $34 million clean-energy facility on September 13th, making it Canada’s first university to produce both heat and electricity from renewable bio-energy.

After researching, it turns out there are almost 900 companies already operating in this industry here in Metro Vancouver such as, pulseenergy.com a booming local company helping utilities to improve energy efficiency. Looking for more success to build on the city has been running and piloting a lot programs including, Commuter Challenges, Idea competitions, Small neighbourhood grants, Home Energy Loans, and various local green events. The aim is to raise awareness and bring together like-minded individuals who want to participate and who want to see this through. After attending some of the local Mt. Pleasant meetings at the town hall it’s evident the momentum of participation is picking up. The community garden programs for example have been working extremely well, with long waiting lists and hundreds of residents eager to begin their urban farming experience and get involved in the planning process. Have you spotted the new SOLE food Farm beside Rogers Arena or BC Place? A great example of a local inner-city farming project.

One thing is definite; if we want to give this great city a bright green future and transform its identity as the greenest city in the world it’s going to take hard work and effort from all parties. As the Action Team cites, “It’s up to everyone to do their part, to rethink, re-evaluate and re-imagine the way Vancouver works and how we lead our lives.”  This includes government, businesses, and social enterprises. Most importantly it includes every citizen and that includes you.

Image by Marda_Miller

 

 

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Greg Ryder 

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