Council also asked staff to create aggressive new targets for greenhouse gas emission limits and a comprehensive plan to achieve them.
The City of Richmond has joined Vancouver in a global movement of cities declaring a climate emergency.
While the declaration is symbolic, Richmond councillors also asked staff to create aggressive new targets for greenhouse gas emission limits and a comprehensive plan to achieve them.
“In Richmond, we are living in a climate emergency that requires direct action to have our city staff and citizens work to support climate strategies that make us consistent using policies and our day-to-day behaviours,” said Coun. Michael Wolfe.
Richmond has successfully reduced community-wide GHG emissions by an estimated 12 per cent between 2007 and 2015, led by a steep reduction in residential natural gas consumption, according to a staff report.
Richmond has already implemented a Community Energy and Emissions Plan with “beyond code” energy efficiency standards for new buildings.
Light vehicle gasoline use accounts for 42 per cent of Richmond’s GHG emissions, but implementation of the provincial government’s CleanBC plan is likely to reduce emissions over time.
By 2025, 10 per cent of light-duty vehicles sold in B.C. must be zero emission, increasing to 30 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2040.
By law, new residential parking spaces in Richmond must include an outlet capable of supporting electric vehicle charging.
The city is also hoping to finance a $20-million sewer heat recovery plant that will supply energy for heat and hot water at Oval Village while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 200,000 tonnes over its lifetime.
But Richmond will need to reduce GHG emissions to 50 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 to be consistent with the goals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, the report said.
The panel recommends limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
Sea level rise associated with climate change is a particular concern for Richmond, which maintains 49 kilometres of dikes to control flooding.
Richmond is on average one metre above sea level, and its dike system is designed to offer full protection against a one-metre sea-level rise predicted by the 1.5-degrees scenario. The Dike Master Plan is expected to offer protection for a rise up to 1.7 metres.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels could rise between 0.6 and 1.7 metres if temperatures increase by two degrees Celsius.
“Climate change is also projected to result in a more rapid snowmelt period earlier in the year, producing an increased risk of flooding during freshet of the Fraser River,” according to a staff report.
Vancouver council passed a motion declaring a climate emergency in January and called on staff to set new, tougher climate change targets and find new ways to meet them. Those recommendations are due back in April.
In the motion, Coun. Christine Boyle notes that Vancouver needs $1 billion worth of flood management infrastructure by 2100 and that a catastrophic flood in Vancouver would cause about $7 billion in property damage, not including cleanup and rebuilding costs.
Vancouver’s carbon pollution levels are seven per cent below 2007 levels, representing an average reduction of less than one per cent per year over the past decade. An average annual reduction of over three per cent is necessary to meet the city’s 2030 targets, according to Boyle.
Just days after Vancouver’s declaration, Halifax passed a similar motion and more recently North Vancouver and New Westminster.
“It’s not really a climate emergency for Richmond because we started preparing for this five years ago,” said Coun. Harold Steves. “But we thought it was important to lend our voice to the cities that are doing this, because it is an emergency for the rest of the world.”
According to the website Climate Emergency Declaration, more than 300 communities in Quebec have declared a climate emergency, while more than 400 local governments in the United States have made a declaration, according to The Climate Mobilization.
— with files from Dan Fumano and Canadian Press