This story is part of the series Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia, which explores the path to low-carbon energy for British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. This project is produced in partnership with InvestigateWest and other media outlets.
When Gregor Robertson was sworn in as mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia, in December 2008, he did so with a simple promise: By 2020, the glassy city, encircled by water and Pacific Northwest rainforest, would be the “Greenest City in the World.”
These were heady times for Vancouver. The 2010 Winter Olympics were right around the corner, and organizers had touted the event as the “greenest Olympics” ever. A new, progressive party known as “Vision Vancouver” had swept into power, seizing seats on the city council, park board, and school board. It pledged to build affordable housing, plant hundreds of thousands of trees, and slash pollution. The sense of promise was so strong that Robertson, the cofounder and former CEO of Happy Planet Foods, even pledged to end homelessness by 2015.
Vancouver had long been a liberal, environmentally minded cit... Read more