Comment: Climate leadership plan will guide Victoria to 2050

Imagine it’s 2050. Victoria is a prosperous, affordable, sustainable and smart city. Victorians’ health and well-being are the best in the nation, and Victoria is featured in the annual World Happiness Report (worldhappiness.report) as one of the happiest small cities on the planet.

We live in a dense, compact city with people clustered along corridors, in village centres and downtown. We’ve stewarded and enhanced our natural assets — tree canopy, parks and open spaces, ocean — and these continue to contribute to our quality of life and the livability of our city.

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We live and work in buildings that are powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. We move about mostly by affordable, efficient, 100 per cent electric, rapid public transit, and by walking and cycling. Those of us who drive use cars powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

All our kids are safer, happier and healthier than they were in 2017. And they all have more opportunities. No one has been left behind in the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a carbon-free economy. New educational opportunities match the new job opportunities that have sprung up as Victoria’s amazing entrepreneurs leapt at the challenge to innovate and invent the goods and technologies needed for this clean-energy future.

The Climate Leadership Plan that Victoria is launching today for community input lays the foundation for this future. It is a series of targets, goals, strategies and actions for each of us to work toward. The city’s role is to lead and inspire. The Climate Leadership Plan sets goals for the city to transform its own fleet, buildings, energy use, consumption habits, waste management and corporate practices. We aim to make the city’s buildings, fleets and public spaces into a microcosm or model of what is possible.

But the city’s actions are not enough. The city’s corporate emissions account for only one per cent of total emissions in Victoria; the rest come from community and industry. The city’s core commitment and our No. 1 job is to support our residents and businesses as they take action.

According to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, there’s an economic imperative to act now. Early action on climate adaptation is 40 per cent cheaper than each decade of delay. Early action on climate mitigation is less disruptive and provides opportunity for healthier change.

A clean-energy community avoids fossil-fuel price fluctuations and shocks, and avoids increasing emissions and pollution costs. Energy retrofits, if done wisely and timed with other planned improvements, will maximize value, avoid costs, and minimize disruption for both residential and commercial building owners.

To reach the city’s goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent over 2007 levels by that same year, means we need to do more than turning off lights when we leave the room, recycling or using less water. It means that we have to transform our daily lives radically, making them more convenient, affordable, efficient and happier at the same time as healing the planet.

First and foremost, the climate challenge is human-centred. It’s about us, all of us. Technology, apps, innovation — they will help us get there. But to solve the climate challenge, we have to weave a strong social fabric, to build on the gifts, assets and talents of our friends, neighbours and colleagues. It means we have to shift our thinking from me to we, from now to the long term.

We’re all in this together. And together, we’re poised to soar.

To join the community in taking climate action and to celebrate the launch of the city’s Climate Leadership Plan, join Synergy Sustainability Institute and Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island and the city tonight at the Vic Theatre for a screening of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel. Doors open at 6 p.m.; screening at 6:30. Climate Leadership Plan highlights will be presented after the film. To read the Climate Leadership Plan, visit victoria.ca/climateaction.

Lisa Helps is mayor of Victoria.

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