The battle for greenest city: mayor says Vancouver getting close

At a keynote address to attendees at a sustainable energy conference on Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson outlined the city's progress toward its greenest city ambitions. Robertson says while the city isn't tops yet, it's battling its way up.

At 15th annual Clean Energy B.C. conference, Gregor Roberston said city now battling for the top 5

Mayor Gregor Robertson told attendees at a clean energy conference, that in North America, his city is second only to New York for the lowest percentage of trips made by vehicle. (David Horemans/CBC)

At a keynote address to attendees at a sustainable energy conference on Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson outlined the city's progress toward its greenest city ambitions. 

In 2011, Vancouver city council introduced its goal of becoming the world's greenest city by 2020. 

While that may have seemed a long way in the future then, the deadline is fast approaching.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson addresses attendees at the Generate 2017 conference, a sustainable energy event put on by Clean Energy B.C., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. (Christer Waara/CBC)

While the city is not yet the top of any list, Robertson is hopeful. 

"We're battling our way up into the top five, I think, reliably on the lists. We've got some tough competition in Scandinavia to catch at the top of the ladder right now globally," he said. 

In North America, only NYC sees fewer car trips, mayor says 

The conference the mayor was speaking at is the 15th annual hosted by Clean Energy B.C., an association made up of industry, developers, service providers and First Nations dedicated to developing environmentally responsible and cost-effective electricity.

The mayor said some of his city's stated sustainability goal posts have been achieved; notably, in 2015, Vancouver reached and surpassed its target of reducing the number of transportation trips that involve vehicles.

More than 50 per cent of trips now are completed without a car. 

"Walk, bike and transit became the majority of our transportation use in Vancouver which is a big milestone for a North American city," Robertson told attendees.

"In North America, New York, I believe, was the only other city ahead of us in having a majority of people get around without cars."

Robertson also noted the city's green building code has led to a 43 per cent decrease in greenhouse gases per square metre in new buildings and he said that's led directly to $44 million in energy cost savings for Vancouverites.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says Vancouver's green building code initiatives have led to a 43 per cent drop in greenhouse gases per square metre in all new buildings. (Liberty Benedict)

He also noted city council has added goals for 2030: a 50 percent reduction in carbon pollution and moving over half the city into renewable energy. 

Robertson: Alberta, Ottawa not walking the talk

But Robertson admitted there is work to be done and he had strong criticism for the federal government and that of Alberta.

"I noticed that the premier of Alberta, the federal minister of natural resources, don't look like they're on the speaking list here at Generate, but I know they're in town," said Robertson.

"[It] is disturbing and worrying for me when we have leadership at provincial and federal levels that talk about the importance of renewable energy, that make commitments in Paris, and then they show up and promote pipelines and fossil fuel development," he said. 

Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr are both giving addresses later this week to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade's 2017 Energy Forum.

Robertson said local communities and those in the sustainable energy industry need to keep pressure on other levels of government to aggressively make a shift to renewable energy.

Clean Energy B.C.'s Generate 2017 conference continues on Tuesday.