This series looks at Mayors who are introducing 100% renewable energy targets for their cities or regions.
Profile: City Mayor who has pioneered new policy approaches to long term sustainable development for a major city and as part of this is leading the way on a 100% renewables policy to benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
Gregor Robertson was recently elected for his third term as the Mayor of Vancouver, Canada – a city routinely ranked as one of the most livable places in the world. Mayor Robertson has set out a bold vision for the City of Vancouver: to meet all of its energy needs via 100% renewable sources as part of becoming the greenest city in the world.
Robertson wants to ensure that citizens are guaranteed clean air, a healthy economy, strong communities and energy security. Robertson’s plan is also a beacon for cities around the world by demonstrating how going green is good for the economy, the community and the environment. Mayor Robertson’s work has received international recognition, as demonstrated by his recent invitation to join Pope Francis and other world mayors at the Vatican to address climate change and social justice.
Even though Vancouver is widely recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world, its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than the planet can sustain. Robertson and his team are committed to continuing to move towards true sustainability. Their work began at the beginning of 2009, when he assembled the Greenest City Action Team and threw down an audacious and exciting challenge: to develop a plan to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. Today, the Greenest City Action Plan is one of the most rigorous roadmaps of any city in the world, ensuring transparency and accountability as it follows 10 long-term goals, with 15 measurable and ambitious targets for 2020.
In March 2015, Robertson took the next bold step towards ensuring a strong, resilient future: committing to ensuring that 100% of the energy used in Vancouver comes from renewable sources. “There is a huge economic opportunity in shifting away from fossil fuels and towards a green economy,” says Robertson. “Vancouver has an opportunity to lead and the 100% renewable goal will make our city a greener, more resilient place to call home.”
For Robertson, showing leadership on the urgent challenge of climate change is imperative. “While national governments have been stalling, cities around the world are taking action and delivering results when it comes to tackling climate change. The most impactful change we can make is a shift toward 100% of our energy being derived from renewable sources,“ says the Mayor. “The future of Vancouver’s economy and livability will depend on our ability to confront and adapt to climate change. We can talk about others needing to do something about it, or we can act and in doing so, inspire other levels of government to act too.“
Giving Vancouver this vision of becoming the greenest city, including pursuing 100% renewable energy, has a number of benefits, says the Mayor. “We are pursuing two goals at the same time. First of all, we want to make our city a safe, livable and healthy place for people of all backgrounds to live and call home. Getting off of fossil fuels and using cleaner energy in how we live has enormous environmental benefits. And secondly, in such a globalized world, we want Vancouver to be internationally recognized as a city that meets the needs of generations to come. Making the decision to shift to 100% renewable energy today creates a positive environmental and economic legacy for future generations.”
Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions per person in Vancouver have declined by over 30% and are now the lowest of any major city in North America. Despite lower GHG emissions, the city is expected to have the strongest economic growth of any Canadian city next year. Vancouver’s goal to be the greenest city in the world has a strong focus on creating economic opportunity. City policies that push for greener building standards, incentivize local food production, and increase waste diversion and recycling efforts have helped bolster a thriving green economy. An analysis conducted by the Vancouver Economic Commission showed that more than 3,000 green and local food jobs were created in Vancouver in a three year time span – growing at a rate of four times that of conventional jobs in the national economy.
One of the biggest successes of the greenest city plan is that half of all trips made in Vancouver are now by foot, bike and transit – a goal that was reached five years ahead of schedule. “Our Greenest City and Transportation 2040 actions are making Vancouver a safer, cleaner, more environmentally friendly city to get around,” says the Mayor. “Investments in safer walking and cycling – protected bike lanes, improved crosswalks, better lighting – are encouraging people to walk and bike more, and we’re now seeing big increases in walking and bike trips throughout the city.” Vancouver is also committed to improving public transit, with plans to develop a subway system along what is currently North America’s busiest bus corridor.
For Robertson it is important to highlight how local support is what’s driving the city’s progress. “The City’s commitment to environmental issues stems from the dedication and passion of the citizens of Vancouver, and it was inspiring to see the level of support we heard when Council passed our 100% renewable target. Our city has a long history of caring for the environment and thinking long-term. Vancouverites are proud that our city has taken a position of global leadership on climate and sustainability and they expect us to be bold. They are constantly pushing us to take every step we can to make Vancouver the greenest city possible and they have high expectations for us. It’s inspiring to have that level of public support and it’s what motivates us to keep pushing the pace on becoming the greenest city in the world.”
Kevin Quinlan, Director of Policy and Communications, Vancouver Mayors Office
Featured photo by bcndp via Flickr.