Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Vancouver’s climate action plan set for last review

Policymakers: Hefty price significantly less than cost of inaction

By , Columbian staff writer
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A long-awaited blueprint for a greener Vancouver is at last set to be reviewed for the final time Monday after almost two years in the making.

The Climate Action Framework contains almost 90 green-driven actions and, with it, a summary of estimated costs approaching $8 million annually through 2040, the city’s “leading edge” deadline to reach carbon neutrality by both municipal and community operations.

Items that have the highest potential to curtail Vancouver’s emissions — those prioritizing decarbonizing buildings and transportation — may cost upwards of $151 million.

Policymakers, while nodding to the agenda’s hefty price, said the expense is significantly less than the cost of inaction. Staff used cost analyses from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and calculated that cutting transportation emissions alone would save $145 million through 2040, while tackling electrification in its building sector would spare $65 million for the same period.

The city anticipates funding fragments of these efforts beginning next year, as outlined in its recently approved 2023-2024 biennial budget, which doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1.

Here are eight takeaways from the plan:

  • Promote home electrification

The city of Vancouver would prioritize supplying households in need with electric heat pumps and urge contractors and real estate agents to encourage electrification in existing homes. Rebates would be available to those who install solar, and the city would work with neighborhood associations to remove policies that prevent the use of such infrastructure.

  • Convert commercial projects

For commercial buildings, the city of Vancouver would partner with Clark Public Utilities to connect businesses to programs that reduce energy use, such as heating and lighting incentives. Local trade and workforce organizations would be directed to provide gas to electric conversion training.

  • Expand EV charging stations

The framework proposes expanding public and private charging stations for electric vehicles in new and existing developments. City codes would require at least 25 percent of spaces in parking facilities to have charging stations, which exceeds state requirements of a minimum of 10 percent.

  • Promote micro-mobility

The city can only incentivize the community’s transition to cleaner vehicles, which it’s positioned to do with Clark Public Utilities and local dealerships, but would still focus on providing electric micro-mobility options throughout the city, such as bikes and scooters. There would also be added infrastructure to support the storage of such options.

  • Enhance public transit

Bus stops, corridors and other related infrastructure upgrades would be tapped on to increase Vancouver’s transit ridership.

Sara Schmit, a Clark County Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee member, tapped on the plan’s emphasis on commuting as pivotal in equitable living. “You don’t transition straight from living on the street to owning a Tesla or immediately having your driver’s license. We need to make those options available for people so that they can transition out of poverty.”

The city would work with organizations to implement ride-share options in popular areas, as well as develop codes to create docking stations reserved for car-sharing vehicles.

  • Make construction electric

Construction projects and operations relying on medium and heavy-duty trucks would be required to use zero-emission alternatives for new vehicles, aiding in the city’s goal to replace 40 percent of new trucks with zero emission or lower-carbon fuel vehicles by 2030.

  • Make city fleet electric, too

The city plans to transition its municipal fleets to electric, which they have already budgeted a portion of funds for beginning next year.

  • Expand alternative fuels

With the agenda’s passage, residents may also see more gas stations supplying alternative fuel options, such as biodiesel, renewable diesel, compressed or liquefied natural gas and hydrogen.

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Overall, the city of Vancouver’s 2040 objective outpaces environmental bastions, such as its distant neighbor Seattle, which plans to completely wipe out carbon emissions by 2050. Still, it all hinges on both city and community engagement, something policymakers are committed to challenging head on.

“Already, the science is starting to shift and say that 2050 is too late, and we need to be moving faster than that,” Aaron Lande, city policy and program manager, previously told the Vancouver City Council. “You’ll see that we’ve laid out a very aggressive pathway to get there.”