The city of Vancouver has taken several steps to enhance its climate and energy regulations this year, but there are still several challenges standing between the city and carbon neutrality.
Among them: supply chain issues, a tedious process to install electric vehicle chargers and local lawbreakers cutting the cords of existing electric vehicle chargers.
Staff from the city of Vancouver reviewed their climate action efforts this year during Monday night’s city council meeting. The main takeaways: the city is diligently developing a green building code and trying to enhance electric vehicle infrastructure, but the city council wants staff to accelerate the process.
“We already know from the data and the science that we’re behind in general when it comes to addressing this emergency,” Councilor Kim Harless said. “So how do we expedite it and show that we are doing our due diligence with the timelines presented in front of us?”
Rebecca Small, senior policy analyst for the city, reviewed the city’s climate efforts in recent months, which include hiring contractors to assess energy efficiency on city buildings and to support electrification upgrades and solar opportunities.
Earlier this year, the city began planning the Climate Community Advisors, a group for youth and BIPOC residents to participate in the city’s climate efforts, Small said.
The city is also investing in a community project to enhance solar power usage.
“Not every roof in the city’s portfolio can support solar panels,” Small said. “This community solar project allows the city to buy a share of a large solar installation, providing a very cost effective way to participate in renewable energy production without needing to do all of our own installation and operation.”
Several city departments are creating Vancouver’s first comprehensive green building policy, which should be complete in the next year, according to Small.
Harless said this timeline seemed too vague considering the urgency of climate change and asked city staff if they could expedite the implementation of the green building policy.
City Manager Eric Holmes said rushing the process would result in less community engagement and a higher likelihood of errors.
“If we decide to do everything as fast as we can, there is a much higher likelihood that we will have to redo it either because of a legal challenge or because we were not thorough and exhaustive in the work that we’re doing,” Holmes said.
In terms of transportation — the biggest source of carbon emissions in the United States — the city is focused on improving electric vehicle charging stations and increasing the number of city vehicles reliant on electricity. Most of these changes will appear in the city’s updated Comprehensive Plan and Transportation System Plan.
The city has experienced difficulty purchasing electric or hybrid vehicles, according to Small. She said 24 of the city’s hybrid vehicle orders in the last year were canceled.
Multiple city council members said they would like to see quicker improvements to the city’s electric vehicle infrastructure.
“We’ve been talking about electric charging infrastructure for quite a while now,” Councilor Erik Paulsen said. “It’s beginning to feel like we’re dragging our feet a little bit, all due respect.”
Geraldene Moyle, general services director for the city, said the city is focused on building charging stations for city vehicles before focusing on public charging stations.
However, she said culpable individuals have cut several city charger cables and stolen the copper inside of them — including one at the Vancouver Police Department headquarters.
“It also sends a statement as well, that somebody can go to the (Vancouver Police Department) headquarters and steal the cords off charging stations,” Councilor Bart Hansen said. “The brash tactics that they’re using to steal these metals is definitely a daring feat, but at the same time, countermeasures of some sort, I’m sure, down the road will need to be looked at.”