Editorial: City of Vancouver needs renewable reality checks

Sept. 25, 2017, 6 a.m.

Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy (RCS) needs a companion initiative to aid long-term city business viability: a Retainable Enterprise Imperative.

The latter would provide real-world reality checks to balance city hall climate control theory so that companies can continue operating in the aspiring Greenest City in the World, where business survival rates will inevitably come under increased pressure as RCS requirements are introduced.

The RCS is grounded in good intentions. Reducing urban contributions to greenhouse gas emissions is laudable. But as a new report from public policy consultancy KMG Strategy makes clear, the City of Vancouver’s RCS goal to become 100% renewable by 2050 has significant blind spots (“Renewable City Strategy slammed” – Business in Vancouver issue 1455; September 19-25).

Its Zero Emissions Building Plan (ZEBP), for example, requires that new buildings produce no greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving that will include the fanciful notion that fossil fuel use in buildings be phased out.

City representatives have downplayed reports that using natural gas, one of B.C.’s most abundant and relatively clean energy sources, will be prohibited because “renewable natural gas” – so named because it’s generated from sewage treatment plants, dairy farms and other sources – can be used. But the practicality of that biomethane being a viable substitute for traditional natural gas is laughable and therefore an impractical option for developers.

Of more concern for those developers and, ultimately, buyers of Vancouver real estate, city hall, according to the KMG report, has produced no detailed analysis of costs and climate change impact resulting from ZEBP diktats.

The study, done for resource industry lobby group Resource Works, should ring another alarm bell to awaken politicians and bureaucrats to the business realities of top-down green decrees.

The Greenest City in the World won’t be much good if it’s home to the most moribund business landscape in the world, the most expensive real estate in the world and the most unsustainable economy in the world.