British Columbia

Give cities the power to move more quickly on the environment, say Metro Van politicians

"We are the level of government that's closest to the people, we're also closest to the impacts of climate change and we can move more quickly," said Megan Curren, a North Vancouver District councillor.

Several cities have motions this week asking the province to give them greater jurisdiction on green issues

The District of North Vancouver has approved a number of motions around lobbying the province for more powers concerning environmental policy. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

In the past year, several municipalities across Metro Vancouver have declared climate emergencies.

Now, a number of them want more tools to do something about it. 

"We are the level of government that's closest to the people, we're also closest to the impacts of climate change and we can move more quickly," said Megan Curren, a North Vancouver District councillor.

"So we don't want to be encumbered by policy that doesn't allow us to move as quickly as our citizens and municipalities want us to."

Curren put forward nine motions at Monday's meeting, most calling on the province to give municipalities more powers when it comes to regulating the environment. They include:

  • Letting municipalities impose and collect vehicle congestion charges.
  • Letting municipalities establish standards for building electrification, heat pumps, and water heaters.
  • Letting municipalities expressly require green roofs.

All motions passed unanimously. They will now be debated by politicians across the Lower Mainland at their annual conference later this spring, and if approved, be included for provincewide debate at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. 

Slow movement from higher levels

Traditionally, local governments have taken little action on explicitly environmental issues — provincial governments generally have jurisdiction over such policies, and only the City of Vancouver has the ability to enact its own building codes. 

But in recent years, Metro Vancouver councillors have pushed for more action on climate change, whether it be bans on single-use plastic items or incentives to reduce personal vehicle use

At the same time, the provincial government has been reluctant to change the Community Charter to increase the powers available to municipalities, and the plastic bag ban has faced legal setbacks

"I don't think this has been met with a level of urgency that's required. We won't be quiet about it," said Curren.

"I mean we're really calling on the province to empower us to take the action that we need to achieve the targets that we've set as municipalities."

While all motions passed unanimously, Mayor Mike Little offered a note of caution at what North Vancouver could accomplish in the event the province eventually agreed to make all the changes Curren suggested.

"I see us having a major infrastructure impediment that won't be able to be overcome in the short-term," he said.

On Tuesday the City of Vancouver will debate its own lobbying motions that could go forward to the UBCM convention, including ensuring ride-hailing fleets are energy efficient, and having the provincewide Municipal Pension Plan divest from fossil fuel investments. 

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