Vancouver can only meet its 2030 climate targets if it embraces new regulations such as a road toll for the metro core, parking permits for every resident car on the street and building upgrades to reduce the use of natural gas, a new climate-action report from staff says.
It won’t work to just continue with current policies or to do nothing more than offer incentives and encouragement, says Matt Horne, Vancouver’s climate policy manager.
“If we just rely on those, we don’t get where we need to go,” he said. Mr. Horne is a member of a large team that’s been working on possible strategies since staff were directed last year by councillors to come up with the climate “emergency-response” plan. It is now heading back to council for approval on Tuesday.
Vancouver’s current goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent from 2007 levels by 2030. At the moment, Vancouver has only reduced its emissions by 9 per cent from 2007 levels. Staff estimated that 54 per cent of emissions come from natural gas and 39 per cent from gas and diesel vehicles.
Some of the recommendations in the 371-page report are already controversial. One is the recommendation to introduce mobility pricing, such as tolls or a congestion charge, for the city’s central jobs area downtown and on Broadway by 2025.
TransLink had appointed an independent commission to study the idea of introducing mobility pricing – something that has been a success in Singapore – in the Lower Mainland two years ago. Its final report acknowledged that it would be politically difficult. The provincial NDP government expressed no interest in moving forward. No one at TransLink or Metro Vancouver has raised the issue publicly since then.
But the Vancouver staff report suggests that the city could put something in place around its metro core as a trial.
“When the mayors' council is ready for regional mobility pricing, transport pricing tested at the scale of our metro core could provide even greater confidence to make substantial changes across Metro Vancouver,” the report says.
Another recommendation is to require every resident planning to park a car on the street to get a permit by the end of 2021.
As well, people who buy more expensive gas-powered cars would be charged more for the permit, than those with electric vehicles or lower-cost gas cars, through a “carbon-pollution surcharge.”
Someone who buys an expensive electric Tesla or a gas-powered but cheap Honda Fit won’t pay the extra charge, but a resident who buys something like an Escalade SUV will.
That’s aimed at making car owners with the most economic resources pay, Mr. Horne said.
“There’s an ability for these people to make a transition sooner than the general public.”
At the moment, only about 10 per cent of the city requires resident-parking permits out of the 300,000 parking spots that account for a third of all road space on Vancouver streets.
Mr. Horne said the team calculated that it would cost residents and businesses $1.3-billion in the next 10 years to comply with the new rules, if the recommendations pass. The regulations include replacing windows and natural-gas furnaces and stoves as houses are slowly required to meet higher standards for energy efficiency. They also include paying for parking or driving, improving insulation and using lower-carbon building materials.
But, he said, the team also calculated that they’d save $2.3-billion in reduced fuel and heating costs for the life of those investments.
In addition, the recommendations in the plan aim to encourage more walking, biking and transit use so that the city can hit a goal of 80 per cent of trips done that way. The current level is 54 per cent.
Of the 19 recommendations, seven are focused on making buildings more energy-efficient, six on making electric vehicles more feasible and five on parking and congestion charges.
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