Wednesday, March 25, 2015, was a historic day for the City of Vancouver. City Council voted unanimously to support a shift toward the city deriving 100% of its energy from renewable sources. The motion from Mayor Gregor Robertson directs staff to report back by autumn 2015 with a reasonable timeline on which to meet the comprehensive goal. Vancouver is the first city in Canada to adopt the target and the fourth in North America. This motion follows action by at least 10 other world-class leading cities, including San Francisco, Sydney, Stockholm, and Copenhagen to adopt targets to shift to 100% renewable power and/or go fossil fuel free before 2050. According to Mayor Roberston, "[c]ities around the world must show continued leadership to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, and the most impactful change we can make is a shift toward 100% of our energy being derived from renewable sources."
Our colleagues at the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue—led by SFU Public Square Executive Director, Shauna Sylvester—have been working with the City on this initiative for almost a year. They were well represented at the Council vote. Shauna presented on behalf of the SFU Centre for Dialogue and Renewable Cities, Claire Havens spoke on behalf of Carbon Talks, and Mike Soron gave an excellent presentation on behalf of Sustainable SFU. Four SFU Semester in Dialogue students also presented their comments in writing; to which Councilor Reimer and Councilor Carr spoke eloquently. Shauna and Claire also wrote an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun outlining the significant of this commitment and what it means for Vancouver
The vote comes as the City of Vancouver nears the halfway mark of their Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Mayor Robertson noted that “[t]he future of Vancouver’s economy and livability will depend on our ability to confront and adapt to climate change, and moving toward renewable energy is another way that Vancouver is working to become the greenest city in the world.”
At the same meeting, City Council also called for increased advocacy for regional, provincial and national governments to support an international agreement that commits to 100% renewable energy sources. Vancouver is also preparing to host renewable energy leaders from around the world for the 2015 Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum from May 13 to 15, 2015. SFU Centre for Dialogue is organizing the forum.
The City of Vancouver motion follows last week’s call for a nation-wide shift to renewable energy by the Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD), a group of 70 leading Canadian academics, including Shauna. On that occasion, she remarked that “[n]ever before have so many scholars collaborated to develop solutions for how Canada can move to a low-carbon future. In the absence of a serious national policy on climate change, their plan offers some hopeful strategies for action.”
If you are interested in learning more about this motion, or the movement towards renewable cities, please join us at our next City Conversation on April 2, 2015.
Yuri Artibise is SFU Public Sqaure's External Projects and Communication Manager.