Opinion: Vancouver's Climate Emergency Action Plan in need of funding to meet targets

Feb 13 2023, 10:44 pm

Written for Daily Hive Urbanized by former Vancouver city councillors Andrea Reimer of Vision Vancouver, and Peter Ladner of the Non-Partisan Association.

It’s said that there’s no such thing as a left-wing pothole or a right-wing storm drain. Municipal government is, at its core, about making things work — about people having housing they can afford, being able to get around, and services that are efficient and effective.

The climate emergency is a challenge for every level of government — but particularly municipal government. In Vancouver, we have already felt the effects of the climate emergency. In 2021, more than 100 Vancouverites died from the devastating heat dome. In 2022, an atmospheric river destroyed mountain highway routes like the Coquihalla, cutting off Metro Vancouver from the rest of Canada.

There is no such thing as a left-wing heat-induced death. There is no such thing as a right-wing landslide. The climate crisis is a challenge municipal governments must rise to face.

We are former city councillors from political parties on different sides of the political spectrum. But we have joined OneCity Councillor Christine Boyle in calling on Mayor Ken Sim to close the gap in funding in Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP). In discussions with frontline groups and civil society, we know that the CEAP is on the verge of failing: it is underfunded and not on track to meet its own targets for reducing carbon pollution and improving health and safety for Vancouverites.

The CEAP builds on over two decades of Vancouver leadership. The big moves contained within its pages — like defaulting new buildings into cleaner cooking and heating technologies, and prioritizing public and active transportation — represent a clear-eyed vision of the next steps Canadian cities need to take if we are to meet our climate targets.

Vancouver’s “swagger” has been much discussed. But swagger comes from substance and achievement, not rhetoric. For Vancouver to be a leader, our actions must match our words.

For a government that is committed to opening Vancouver for business, there is also a strong case for climate action that prioritizes active and public transit. Motor vehicle infrastructure helps people move through a place. Active transportation helps people move within it — and people moving within a place are much more likely than drivers to spend money, stopping in for impulse buys in local shops. Active transportation leads to prosperous main streets and bustling shops. It’s good for business — and good for the environment.

But if we stay on the path we’re on, we will not meet our targets. When Vancouver City Council passed the CEAP, they set an ambitious target: by 2030, 90% of Vancouverites should be able to live within an easy walk or roll of their daily needs, with two-thirds of all trips made on foot, bike, or public transit. During the recent civic election, the ABC Vancouver party talked up its commitment to building a “15-minute City.” We endorse this goal, but to achieve it, City Council needs to keep building on the leadership of previous councils and commit to the big moves found within the CEAP.

As Councillor Boyle said last week, we are not on track to keeping these commitments.

Mayor Sim and ABC councillors made public commitments during the campaign: to building a 15-minute city, and to moving forward on climate action. We endorse these commitments, and urge Mayor Sim to move them forward by directing staff to put the CEAP back on track.

For our climate, for our health, for our common prosperity and for the livable city we all call home, we join Councillor Boyle in calling on Mayor Sim and ABC to strengthen climate action.

In doing so, we can reaffirm Vancouver’s place as a climate leader.

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