British Columbia

'Heading towards a climate reckoning': Victoria wants cruise ship-related emissions cut quickly

Victoria city council has an ambitious climate target, and it's asking the cruise industry to get on board. The harbour authority is looking into installing shore power and also cutting back on emissions from land transportation, once passengers disembark.

GVHA considering shore power to allow cruise ships to plug into electrical grid instead of using fossil fuels

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is looking at installing shore power, which would cut back on the greenhouse gas emissions that cruise ships emit while in port. (CHEK News)

Victoria city council wants to bring cruise ships in line with its ambitious climate change goals, but it won't be easy. 

Cruises are a big part of Victoria's tourism industry: more than 250 ships come into port each year, bringing an estimated $130 million in tourist dollars. But they also create significant CO2 emissions, which Victoria is trying to eliminate by 2050. 

This week, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), along with industry representatives, presented to council, after councillors passed a motion in October calling for a restriction of future cruise ship contracts until the city and GVHA could discuss concerns over emissions and waste. 

The GVHA reported that in 2018, cruise ships and the infrastructure that support them emitted the equivalent of 12,136 tonnes of carbon dioxide.In comparison, the City of Victoria emitted 387,694 tonnes in 2017. 

Most of those emissions come from the ships themselves — the rest from transportation, equipment and buildings. 

The GVHA has worked to reduce emissions from the buses that carry cruise ship passengers in and around the city. (Greater Victoria Harbour Authority)

To mitigate ship emissions, the GVHA is looking at installing shore power — meaning that when ships are in the harbour, they could plug into the electrical grid instead of using fossil fuels for power.

An engineering assessment is currently underway.

Research done by Synergy Enterprises, a Victoria company which consults on corporate sustainability, found that shore power could cut 36 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions the ships emit. 

"I think that we have a great opportunity in Victoria to become a low carbon port," said Jill Doucette, Synergy's CEO.

'Cruise is very welcome in Victoria'

Councillors responded to the presentation with a lot of questions and a hope that GVHA can start cutting emissions, and soon.  

"I think the tourism industry is heading toward a climate reckoning, and we'll need to adapt very quickly," said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Mayor Lisa Helps admits that council doesn't have the power to change the cruise ship industry, but she says she thinks the GVHA could make the cruise ship terminal carbon neutral, and she thinks they're willing to work toward it. 

"Tourism is very welcome in Victoria, cruise is very welcome in Victoria, and I think what we want is a path forward that 's going to be sustainable for everyone." 


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