|January 15, 2019|
City councillor calls for 'carbon budget' to help guide Vancouver's action on climate change
|Councillor Christine Boyle wants the City of Vancouver to develop a new kind of budget this year, one that will help the city make major cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.|
A carbon budget, she said, would help the city allocate its greenhouse gas emissions and track the progress it's making on reductions.
"It's a useful tracking tool to make sure that we are doing our part in what is clearly a global challenge where we need everyone at every level to be doing their part," she said.
A new carbon budget is just one element of a motion Boyle put forward to further strengthen the city's response to the "climate emergency." Her motion is set to be debated by city council this week.
Overall, Boyle is calling for Vancouver's climate change plan to be ramped up with more ambitious targets and tighter timelines.
She's also calling for the creation of a climate and equity working group to ensure any work the city does to fight climate change or adapt to its impacts will prioritize the needs of the city's most vulnerable residents, including seniors or people who are homeless, who are most at-risk from extreme events, such as heatwaves.
Vancouver got a glimpse of what the climate of the future could mean for the city last year. Over the summer the region was cloaked for days in wildfire smoke that lead to a spike in hospital visits. Then the extreme high tides of November highlighted areas along Metro Vancouver's coastlines vulnerable to flooding as the sea level rises.
According to Boyle's motion, the city is facing at least a $1-billion price tag to shore up of flood management infrastructure. The cost of a major flood in the city would be even higher --- at least $7 billion in property damage.
A carbon budget can help the city allocate its limited emissions. For instance, a certain percentage of the allowable emissions may be allocated to transportation, to housing, and to industry, she said.
It's something that should be seriously considered as the city moves to address Vancouver's housing crisis, she added.
"The homes that we're building now will be with us for 50 or maybe 100 years and because we need to be carbon neutral by mid-century at the latest, we need to make sure we're building the types of homes and the types of infrastructure now that will allow us to meet that goal," she said.
Vancouver is among the world's leading cities when it comes to climate action already, according to Marc Lee, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives based in B.C.
"It's a positive development that a city like Vancouver is thinking about how it can do more," he said.
The idea behind carbon budgeting is that there's a finite amount of greenhouse gas emissions that the world can emit without pushing global warming beyond 1.5 C, the threshold the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
"Conceptually, I think that makes a lot of sense for ordinary people thinking about how they manage their own households and finances," he said.
Currently, the United Kingdom is one of the only jurisdictions in the world that is using carbon budgeting, Lee said.
"Instead of having a far-off target --- by 2030 we're going to reduce emissions by X per cent --- they're basically trying to figure out a pathway towards meeting that target," he said.
In the U.K., the government releases carbon budgets that cover five-year periods and the total greenhouse gas emissions decline with each new budget.
An independent oversight committee monitors that progress and reports back to parliament annually.
In its latest report, the committee wrote that "the U.K. can rightly claim early leadership on decarbonisation and the governance framework to deliver it, but the Government must not be complacent."
The committee said the U.K.'s fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which cover the years 2023-2027 and 2028 to 2032, will be a challenge for the country which has already reduced emissions to 43 per cent below 1990 levels.
Canada, meanwhile, saw emissions increase by 18 per cent between 1990 and 2015.