District of North Van to ‘get its house in order’ on climate

The District of North Vancouver is the latest local government to draw up fresh plans for cutting carbon emissions following a declaration of a climate emergency.

At their last meeting, council endorsed unanimously a series of actions the district could take to align itself with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s goals of quickly halting carbon emissions. Among the actions listed: requiring municipal buildings meet high-performance emissions standards, such as passive house or passive house equivalent, prioritizing modular construction, eliminating all non-renewable energy sources including fossil gas and coming up with further recommendations to achieve net zero emission buildings.

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The motion also directs staff to report back with the expected costs to retrofit all of the district’s buildings by 2025 to achieve highest energy performance and net zero carbon and transition municipal equipment powered by fossil fuels such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, garbage trucks, etc. to electric or biogas.

The motion came from Coun. Megan Curren, who said she did not have faith in senior levels of government to address the problem.

“I think that cities, municipalities, and Indigenous communities, we’re on the front lines of climate change. And we actually can move a lot more quickly than other levels of government.

“And the science is so clear, we know what we need to do, and we need to decarbonize rapidly. And there’s lots of ways to do that,” she said. “I want to frame climate change, not as a future event, and people are dying, and they’re suffering right now as we speak.

“We’re in planetary overshoot, we are not living within the means of this planet. And it’s not about switching from one thing to another. It’s about less of everything. And we are not living within the means of the biosphere.”

Coun. Lisa Muri said the motion was a message to a community that has always been very protective of its environment, that council is getting its own house in order.

Coun. Mathew Bond said he was pleased to see the motion wouldn’t apply just to new builds but also retrofits of existing district infrastructure.

But, the district’s chief administrative officer Dave Stewart cautioned council not to commit to any actions without first getting staff to report back to them on the “potential impacts, consequences and achievability.”

“We may come back and say, ‘Well intended, but the technology is just not there right now, totally,’ or ‘The costs or the consequences which haven’t really been truly understood, are these,’” he said.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I’m saying we definitely need to go this direction. It’s how fast and how we go about doing it.”

Mayor Mike Little agreed, and warned his fellow council members to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” There isn’t enough supply of wood to switch entirely to passive house standards, Little cited as an example. More practical would be pursuing solar hot water heating, he argued.

“It’s something where you can actually put the resources in and see the benefit directly back out,” he said. “This is the right direction but we haven’t fleshed this out enough to be able to make this work in the District of North Vancouver now.”

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