Vancouver named top climate change fighter

Vancouver tops the chart of Canadian cities leading the fight against climate change, says the World Wildlife Fund.

Vancouver tops the chart of Canadian cities leading the fight against climate change, says the World Wildlife Fund.

The city ranks the highest on the organization's list released Monday, based on indicators such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, using renewable energy, and encouraging green building and transportation.

Toronto came in second and Montreal was third, while Victoria, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Mississauga and Yellowknife rounded out the Top 10 list on the climate-change scale.

Josh Laughren, the group's director of climate and energy, said Monday that Vancouver planners have made an effort to integrate climate change and sustainability across all functions of the city.

The city is working towards a zero waste challenge and has started collecting household food scraps along with yard waste for composting. City planners have been adding on to the labyrinth of bike lanes around the city and Vancouver is on the forefront of developing green roofs, including the new roof on the Vancouver Convention Centre that is home to a bee hive.

Toronto came second

But Laughren said every city on the list is considered one of the top performing cities in Canada when it comes to fighting global warming, and should be used as an example for the rest of the world.

"If you take a look at the things Vancouver has done, if you take a look at the things that other cities have done, then it provides us with an agenda for how cities can contribute to the solution of climate change," Laughren said.

Vancouver scored 8.1 out of 10, Toronto came in at 7.2, Montreal ranked 6.2 and the remaining cities came in between 5.7 and 5 on the environmental score sheet.

Laughren said people shouldn't view it as though Yellowknife is below Vancouver, but should think of the Northwest Territories capital as one of the top performing cities in Canada.

"It really came up to the surface as one of the cities taking action," he said. "To be on this list is a great thing and an indication that there's leadership happening at the city level."

Goals set

Vancouver ranks high because city politicians and planners have set goals that provide a good quality of life for those who live there and make the West Coast city attractive for people to visit, Laughren said.

The city has launched a program called Imagine 2020, which aims to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world in just nine years. The program goals include green buildings and transportation, growing local food, and becoming a "mecca" of green enterprise.

On Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced a pilot project that deconstructs rather than demolishes neighbourhood homes, keeping over 90 per cent of a home out of the landfill.

Vancouver city Coun. Andrea Reimer said it has taken many decades for cities to become "climate heavy" and it may take just as long to become "climate light."

She said Vancouver's advantage started decades ago when residents rejected a freeway through the city, forcing more transit and creating compact communities.

"It's a much more livable city," Reimer said. "That's a quality of life you don't get in many cities in North America."

Laughren said environmental savings mean costs savings, as well, and Reimer agreed it is actually cheaper.

"When you pay money as a government into education, or health care or childcare, the more you spend the better the outcomes.  Waste doesn't work that way. The more you spend, the worst the outcomes are," she said.

The ranking comes out ahead of the WWF's worldwide Earth Hour next Saturday, when they hope to have one billion people around the world turn out their lights to raise environmental awareness.