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Metro Vancouver to adopt emission reduction targets

Don’t expect Metro Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to start sinking in line with the premier’s climate change targets any time soon.

Metro’s board is poised to adopt the same goals as the province, committing this region to cut the GHGs it releases 33 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

But a staff report says it won’t be easy.

The region emitted 15.6 million tonnes of the gases linked to climate change in 2005.

With no action, the report suggests Metro’s release of GHGs would climb another 17 per cent to 18.2 million tonnes by 2020.

But now planned federal and provincial initiatives should avert that scenario and contain Metro’s emissions approximately at 2005 levels through 2020.

Achieving a further cut to deliver the one-third reduction to 10.5 million tonnes per year would take significantly more aggressive measures than proposed so far, officials warn.

Much of the expected progress is to come through federally or provincially mandated fuel efficiency standards.

The report was written before the province announced it will phase in a carbon tax of 7.24 cents per litre of gas over the next three years.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, Metro’s environment committee chair, said the carbon tax will be important because motor vehicles are the single biggest category of local emissions, accounting for 36 per cent of Metro’s total.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “They are very aggressive numbers. But at the same time, if you don’t have the aggressive benchmark and goal, we’re not going to achieve anything in this region.”

Metro planners haven’t yet put any new proposals on the table

In 2006, planners took a hypothetical look at what it would take to come up with meaningful GHG cuts here.

They found it would likely require forcing up the cost of driving through a punishing array of fuel taxes, tolls and parking charges, perhaps coupled with hefty new taxes on industrial fuel use.

The ideas –

But in 2008, the climate may be different.

Metro officials say last year appears to have been a tipping point in which the public and policy leaders embraced the fight against climate change.

Trasolini said there’s been no specific discussions of new measures.

Emissions from rail, marine and airport sources are beyond Metro’s control, he said, leaving vehicle traffic and building heat as the top sources to pursue improvements.

Improved transit is one promising avenue, with the province pledging billions will be spent to extend rapid transit lines.

Metro also wants to pursue energy projects.

Potential energy initiatives include installing hydroelectric generators at some of Metro’s existing watersheds, and the use of district heating to capture and use heat that’s otherwise wasted by major generating sources.

The planned shift away from the use of landfills for garbage disposal will also help, Trasolini noted.

New garbage incinerators to be built in the Lower Mainland will generate new sources of electricity and heat. Methane emissions from landfills, which now account for two per cent of the region’s GHGs, should decline.

Vehicles on our roads are steadily becoming cleaner with newer models and improved efficiency standards, and the region’s trend to building greener homes and higher density neighbourhoods is also helping.

But Metro Vancouver’s population continues to rise and is projected to climb 20 per cent to 2.7 million by 2020.

Metro Vancouver GHG emissions:

Motor vehicles –

Buildings – 4.8 million tonnes (30 %)

Cement plants – 2.0 million tonnes (13 %)

Aircraft, marine, rail, non-road equipment – 1.6 million tonnes (10 %)

Other point sources –

Landfills –

Miscellaneous –

Electric power generation – 0.2 million tonnes (1 %)

2005 Total: 15.6 million tonnes

jnagel@surreyleader.com

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