Vancouver mayor optimistic for federal funding following climate change agreement

Vancouver’s mayor hopes Canada’s signing of Saturday’s international agreement on climate change means there will be more federal support for the city’s green initiatives like more public transit.

Public transportation and dealing with rising sea levels are top priorities, says Gregor Robertson

Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, speaks after receiving an award in the category of "Carbon Measurement and Planning" during the C40 cities awards ceremony, in Paris, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. The C40 cities awards recognize cities for their leadership in tackling climate change across key sectors. (Thibault Camus / Associated Press)

Vancouver's mayor hopes Canada's signing of Saturday's international agreement on climate change means the city can expect more federal support for the city's green initiatives like more public transit.

"There's a lot to be hopeful for," said Gregor Robertson on Monday morning.

Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change this weekend in Paris, committing to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution in the coming decades.

Robertson says the city is a pace-setter when it comes to climate change policy, but lags behind when it comes to fighting the real-world effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

He joined Rick Cluff on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition to talk about how Vancouver can make the biggest impact on the fight against climate change and what the COP21 agreement means for Vancouverites.

What do you make of this deal?

I think it is a breakthrough globally. There's no question that many of us around the world have been waiting and hoping and expecting national leaders to take this next step of fully committing and embracing the opportunity with the green economy.

I think we saw a good solid agreement that in many ways is just catching up with the real world. The changes are happening on the ground, they're happening in cities like Vancouver, they're happening in the business community. It's important for national governments to recognize that and be committed to helping drive that pace of change that keeps this planet livable for all for us.

What does this deal mean for big cities in Canada?

That means we're seeing a federal government that's making the commitments that they've put forward in their election campaign and we expecting that they're going to be making unprecedented investments in Canada's cities for green infrastructure, for transit, for the actions on the ground that reduce our climate pollution. [It] will create an enormous number of new jobs and positions in Vancouver and Canada.

What role does Vancouver have to ensure Canada can do its part in this deal?

Something like investing in transit, the Broadway subway, Surrey light rail, buses around the region — that 10 year plan the mayors brought forward, is the most direct, significant, impact on our carbon emissions that we can make. The investment that goes into that, along with dealing with traffic congestion, and making sure good movement happens for our economy, it's a massive improvement in the climate pollution that we're pumping out of cars. People don't have a choice with transit right now in many parts of the region.

We do have leadership in a lot of fronts here. We have the lowest carbon emissions per capita of any North American city right now. We're trailing some of the European cities who already made bigger investments whether it's public transit or making their buildings more efficient, but we're a leading city here in North America.

Vancouver is still far from meeting its own Greenest City goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 33 per cent below 2007 levels. At last count, the city has only reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by seven per cent. From a city bylaw perspective, can we expect any immediate changes taking place?

We'll definitely see the building code continue to get greener and make sure we have carbon-neutral buildings by 2020 and zero-emission buildings in five or 10 years beyond that. So we'll continue to push the pace in terms of reducing the climate impact that our buildings have and that's over half of our emissions come from our buildings. That's basically burning natural gas to heat our buildings and homes and we need to get off of that in the coming years.

In Vancouver, we consume, whether it's water or generally goods, we consume four to five times what is sustainable in this world today.

Obviously a major issue caused by climate change is the flooding of low-lying coastal areas. How concerned are you about what that might mean for us?

The reality check that scientists have been weighing in with is a big part of the driver in Paris. The cost of climate impacts are massive. Certainly we see the impact of sea level rise in Vancouver and as that intensifies, we're talking about, [the] initial estimate is $10 billion that we're going to have to invest to keep the ocean out of Vancouver and our airport. The region is certainly one of the most high-risk cities. We're in the top 20 highest risk cities for sea level rise and climate impacts, and that means we need to get on top of it.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Vancouver mayor commits to helping meet climate change targets.


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