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Vancouver develops green policies to position city for future

Climate Action Framework likely to be on agenda in December

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Vancouver city officials and climate advocates have been awaiting the city’s package of leading-edge green strategies to be approved after months of sorting out fine details — something that isn’t slated to happen until at least early December.

However, the wait shouldn’t be disheartening for those who want the city of Vancouver to employ and enforce sustainable practices before its Climate Action Framework is officially adopted. They have been inching toward a transition to greener operations long before the city ofVancouver in June announced its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

Many of the city’s early implementation actions, designed in 2021, are targeted toward key areas, such as transportation and land use, solid waste, governance, and buildings and energy. The latter is foundational to achieve the city’s carbon neutrality goal, as building energy contributes 20 percent to Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the city’s 2019 inventory.

Since the passage of its Early Action Package, the city began developing green policies consistent with state standards for buildings, expanding energy conservation retrofits in municipal buildings and collaborating with Clark Public Utilities to transition to renewable energy use.

“If we’re going to be asking the community to work with us on cutting carbon, we want to make sure we’re walking the walk and not asking the public to do something we weren’t willing to do ourselves,” said Rebecca Small, Vancouver senior policy analyst.

The city has also participated in incentive programs through Clark Public Utilities to reduce energy consumption and waste.

In 2020, the city converted street lighting fixtures to LED, resulting in annual savings of nearly 6.8 million kilowatt-hours, for which the city earned $1.23 million from Clark Public Utilities , said utility spokesman Dameon Pesanti. The same goes for upgrading lighting on municipal properties, spanning from crosswalk signs to parking garages, which saves 8.5 million kilowatt-hours annually.

The city also participates in the utility’s Strategic Energy Management program to integrate low- and no-cost saving opportunities for the Firstenburg Community Center and City Hall.

Exactly how municipal operations will “hit the ground running” once the Climate Action Framework is approved has not been decided.

The Vancouver City Council will vote on Nov. 21 whether to approve its 2023-24 biennial budget, which encompasses how investments to climate projects will be divvied up. If Vancouver residents are interested in providing a comment on how money is allocated, staff recommend emailing city council or testifying during the public hearing that evening.

Small said a website hosting climate-related news and materials is anticipated to launch soon but, in the interim, information regarding the city’s proposed climate actions can be viewed on Be Heard Vancouver.

Clark Public Utilities, one of the city’s key partners, has applied its own initiatives outside of the Climate Action Framework, furthering Vancouver’s position as an emerging bastion of sustainable operations.

The utility is expected to achieve carbon-neutral electricity for all its customers by 2030 and zero-carbon electricity by 2045, as mandated by the Clean Energy Transformation Act, Pesanti said. By expanding its purchase of hydropower from the Bonneville Power Administration and Box Canyon Dam in Pend Oreille County, the utility is also set to reduce its dependence on natural gas from 34 percent to 15 percent by 2030, he added.

At the Vancouver City Council’s Nov. 7 meeting, utility representatives will delve into how they are poised to fulfill state-imposed requirements and meet the public’s energy demands through a green lens.

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