Report expected by summer on feasibility of shore power to cut cruise-ship emissions

The tourism industry is heading toward a “climate reckoning” and would do well to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions as quickly as possible, a Victoria city councillor said Thursday.

Jeremy Loveday was addressing a workshop on the city’s cruise-ship industry with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and representatives of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association.

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“I think it serves both our planet and our local tourism industry very well to do everything we can, as quickly as possible, to lower our carbon emissions and cut our waste,” he said. “So I’m very happy to be having this conversation and hope we can make progress very quickly.”

Victoria city council has made it clear that it wants to see swift action to cut cruise-ship emissions and reduce waste.

In October, councillors passed a motion directing staff to investigate the city’s legal authority to require cruise ships to plug into shore power at Ogden Point by a certain date.

The motion asked the harbour authority to put a cap on cruise visits and refrain from signing long-term contracts until the shore-power issue is “dealt with” to council’s satisfaction.

Ian Robertson, the authority’s chief executive officer, told council Thursday that an engineering consultant will investigate the feasibility and costs of installing shore power. A report is expected by spring or summer.

“We want this consultant to lay out, from a dollars and cents perspective, the practicality of installing shore power down at Ogden Point,” Robertson said in an interview.

Depending on its findings, the report would be used to press the cruise industry and governments for financial help with the project.

A 2012 reported estimated the cost at $14 million.

“We would use this to go to the cruise lines to say: ‘We need your financial support,’ ” Robertson said. “And also we would go to various levels of government to also ask for their financial support. We need that business case in order to do it.”

The harbour authority released a report in October that showed emissions at Ogden Point have increased 19.1 per cent since 2010 to more than 12,000 tonnes — the equivalent of 3,241 vehicles on the road per year.

At the same time, contaminants such as particulate matter, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide have been reduced by 41 per cent in the last eight years.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who wrote the city motion that pushed the issue to the forefront, said she’s encouraged by the harbour authority’s response.

“Tourism is welcome here and we need to find a way to be the most sustainable destination in the world,” she said.

“Let’s be ambitious, and I think today’s conversation will put us in good stead for that.”

Helps said she firmly believes Victoria is well-positioned to solve some of the climate challenges and boost industry in the process.

“I just don’t think we have a choice as a species and as industry,” she said. “And I’m very optimistic that it’s not choosing between jobs and … the environment.”

Marg Gardiner of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association said she’d prefer less talk and more action on the issues that affect residents.

“They shouldn’t be looking at the business case,” she said of the harbour authority. “They should be looking at the cost of doing it. Period. Because this is no longer a business-case issue. What they’re trying to do is suggest that other people — taxpayers — pay for it.”

Gardiner said the cruise industry makes billions of dollars and has plenty of money to cover the costs of installing shore power.

“Why are we bending over for this industry and why are people trying to think we should subsidize it? They can pay for it.”

As for council, Gardiner wants to see the city use more of the powers at its disposal to crack down on the cruise industry.

“It’s not good enough to march and demonstrate against Alberta when your own front yard is bringing in foreign emitters of greenhouse gases that are going to really increase until something is done.”

Gardiner said the city should be doing more to reduce noise and pollution from the buses and taxis that transport tourists from the cruise ships to downtown.

“The city has control of its streets and everything else,” she said. “They can do a lot — an awful lot.

“You don’t need bus shuttles going downtown and you don’t need all those taxis either. It’s walkable.”

— with a file from Andrew A. Duffy.

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