Vancouver City Council passes groundbreaking climate action plan to tackle carbon pollution from transportation, buildings

November 18, 2020 applauds vote, challenges other cities in U.S. and Canada to follow

VANCOUVER, BC — On Tuesday, November 17, the Vancouver City Council took an important step forward in its goal to become the “world’s greenest city” by voting to pass its Climate Emergency Action Plan and send recommendations on to city staff for review. Vancouver-based environmental advocacy group applauded the groundbreaking vote, calling the City of Vancouver one of the first in Canada to create a plan that truly addresses the scale necessary to tackle the world’s climate crisis, and challenged other cities in the U.S. and Canada to follow suit.

The council’s climate plan includes specific goals to address the city’s largest source of emissions head-on. Almost 60% of the city’s emissions result from burning gas for heating and hot water in homes, businesses, and other buildings. As a result of this action, Vancouver will become the first major city in Canada to implement carbon emissions reduction goals not just for new buildings, but in electrification and renewable energy retrofits in existing buildings as well. The city’s plan commits to cut carbon emissions in existing buildings in half by 2030, and 100% by 2050. New York City enacted a similar strategy in a law adopted in 2019.

“With the City Council’s bold leadership, Vancouver moves to the vanguard of a growing number of cities across the U.S. and Canada that are taking action to prevent the expansion of fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to renewable energy,” said Vancouver resident Liz McDowell, the SAFE Cities Campaign Director at “We know that the number one cause of climate pollution in Vancouver and around the world is burning fossil fuels. If we want a climate-safe future – and a future with clean air to breathe – we need to make big moves now to get fossil fuels out of our buildings and transportation systems. By moving forward with the climate action plan, Vancouver has once again shown itself to be a leader on the global stage and I couldn’t be more proud to live here.” joined environmental advocacy groups Sustainabiliteens, Our Time,, Vancouver Just Recovery Coalition, Climate Justice UBC, Georgia Strait Alliance, Dogwood, and Abundant Transit BC in supporting the councilors’ action. At Tuesday’s meeting, a majority of the councillors voted to approve the plan’s list of 35 climate recommendations, while directing city staff to report back on how to achieve some of these targets. The climate plan includes the following actions:

  • Shifting the city’s transportation systems to encourage more transit ridership, walking, and biking, which will be accomplished through investment in expanding the walking, cycling, and public transit networks. This cuts carbon emissions from the city’s least efficient transportation method—private, single-occupant motor vehicle trips—while freeing up public street space for uses other than parking, and will expand the network of publicly available electric-vehicle charging stations. Based on an amendment passed Tuesday, city staff will study the feasibility of this transport pricing system.
  • Increasing clean-energy vehicle usage so that, by 2030, half of the kilometres driven on city streets are from zero-emission automobiles.Thirty-nine percent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution results from gas and diesel consumption in vehicles, which makes it the second-largest source.
  • Cutting the amount of carbon pollution from buildings to half of its 2007 level by 2030. The plan calls for retrofitting existing homes and buildings so they’ll rely on zero-emission energy sources for heating and hot water, while increasing their energy efficiency.
  • Instituting carbon pollution limits that decreases the amount of fossil fuels that can be consumed in existing buildings over time. This mirrors a standard set in New York City.


In Vancouver and in a growing number of cities and counties across the U.S. and Canada, recently launched its SAFE Cities campaign to empower local municipalities to use their regulatory powers to disrupt the growth of the fossil fuel industry and to stop expansion of infrastructure networks in projects such as pipelines. Governments that adopt SAFE Cities policies use the regulatory authority they already possess to protect public health; to foster clean air and clean water; and to prevent spills, explosions, and pollution risks.

This new organizing strategy gives local communities the power to stop these types of projects — before they’re even proposed. The movement is founded on the idea that communities can shift away from fighting against individual fossil fuel projects on a site-by-site basis. Instead, SAFE Cities works to connect local elected officials and organize grassroots citizens to support policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

The SAFE Cities movement began in 2016 in Whatcom County, Washington, where local leaders joined with community members and partners including to enact a temporary moratorium on new unrefined fossil fuel infrastructure. Since then, 43 governments have enacted 51 similar policies in communities such as Portland, Oregon; South Portland, Maine; Baltimore, Maryland; King County, Washington; and many others. Most of these policies have been enacted in the past two years.

Learn more about SAFE Cities at


Media contact: Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator,, (415) 532-3817