Vancouver was bright green decades before that term was invented. Ever since residents rallied to block development of a major interstate back in the '60s, the city has kept highways out and brought good public transit in. Its neighborhoods routinely rank among the most walkable, bikeable, and livable anywhere -- it's like a mecca for the anti-Robert Moses crowd. And according to municipal stats, it has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any city in North America.
But evidently, all this is not enough. In 2009, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced his intention to make Canada's largest west coast city the greenest in the world. Three years, thousands of expert opinions, and an outpouring of public support later, the city council voted overwhelmingly to approve the 162-page Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Now, a hugely ambitious agenda calling for separated bike lanes, energy efficient building retrofits, emissions reductions, more green spaces, a green economic development plan, and more -- 15 targets in 10 different areas -- has been enacted into law.
City councilor and deputy mayor Andrea Reimer has been crucial to the plan's success thus far. Reimer made a name for herself in 2002, when she was elected Vancouver School Board Trustee under the Green Party banner -- the first Canadian ever to do so. She's been a powerful advocate of the Greenest City plan, and has worked to increase bike and transit ridership, reduce homelessness, oppose oil infrastructure, and work up support for the city's climate goals.
I caught up with Reimer at the recent Social Change Institute conference, where she was a keynote speaker. We discussed the action plan, how she's fended off conservative opposition, and why Vancouver's 600,000 residents have rallied around the idea that their city should be as green as possible.
Q. Can you give us a couple examples of the Greenest City Initiatives?
A. There are 15 targets in 10 different areas. So for example, with climate emissions, we're the only major city on the continent that has met Kyoto [Protocol targets] -- this year, we'll be 6 percent below the 1990 levels. So we have some history we're building on, but we want to be 33 percent below by 2020.