What does Vancouver need to do to become the greenest city by 2020? From what I have seen around the globe, I have had my doubts that we will reach this deadline. Not being one to jump to conclusions, I asked an expert in the field of sustainability: Anonymous. Anonymous has generously taken the time out of their busy schedule to offer their opinion on the matter:
Although Vancouver City Council has come forward with The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, the proposed changes are underwhelming if they are serious about earning that title. As admirable and important as the plan is, it can only be considered a first draft or starting point. In order to propel Vancouver to greenest city status, entire shifts in ideology need to occur, and that full-scale level of change cannot be achieved within 4 years.
Consider Nordic cities, such as Oslo and Helsinki. These cities have been designed to focus on cyclists and pedestrians, rather than being car-centric like the majority of North America. This kind of planning has launched most of Scandinavia ahead of Vancouver in terms of sustainability, in particular the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Further still, Copenhagen has promised to be fossil fuel free by 2050, an admirable milestone not yet reached by or even promised by any other metropolis.
Compared to other cities, like New York, or Beijing, Vancouver has made significant strides in many regards. Most notably, Vancouver has become the first city in North America to set green building standards, ensuring all future buildings meet strict environmental standards. City council has also significantly increased support for local food production, enacted water conservation measures, continued to use renewable energy sources (Hydroelectric), promoted zero waste initiatives, and supported sustainable transportation initiatives, but it is larger scale shifts that are required, as well as significant investment and monetary resources.
In order to fully earn the title Vancouver seeks, council needs to focus on:
- Rethinking the way we think about and understand energy
- Completely ‘decarbonizing’ every aspect, from industrial to the personal level
- Divesting from fossil fuels
- Reshaping the multinational corporation-based food system
- Reinventing our transit systems
No city has attempted these feats, with the exception of Copenhagen’s fossil fuel divestment. Aiming to achieve all five of these goals by 2020 is too ambitious and would likely result in confusion and backlash. A plan for educating the broader population on the goals and importance of meeting the targets, as well as a logical path to getting there within a realistic timeframe must be developed prior to action to ensure success. Only then can we realistically consider striving to become the greenest city in the world.