Time for Climate Action
With smart policies we can achieve emission reduction targets and other community goals
21 November 2019
By Todd Litman, Cities for Everyone
For submission to the Times Colonist Comments
Enough protests! Enough talk! It’s time for action to reduce climate emissions.
Our region has ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, including a Provincial target to reduce emissions 40% by 2030, and a CRD target to reduce emissions 61% by 2038. With smart policies we can achieve these targets in ways that provide other important benefits.
Transportation and buildings are our region’s two largest household emission sources (see graph). There are effective ways to reduce these emissions that also achieve affordability, health, economic opportunity and local economic development goals.
As individuals we can choose cleaner vehicles, drive less, and make our homes more energy efficient, but to be successful we need local policies that support efficient transport and development. Below are ten polices recommended by Cities for Everyone, a local advocacy group, which we believe can achieve our emission reduction targets and provide other important benefits.
- Accelerate public transit improvements. Our regional transit improvement plan, called Transit Futures, is terrific except for its 25-year timeline. Let’s implement it by 2025.
- Improve interregional public transit. We need convenient, frequent and affordable transit services connecting Victoria with Nanaimo and Vancouver.
- Improve active transport (walking and bicycling). Walking and bicycling are a critical component of an efficient transportation system. Most local jurisdictions have active transport plans, but their implementation is slow. Complete them by 2025.
- Support Transit Oriented Development. Most new housing and jobs should be located in walkable neighborhoods along frequent transit routes where it is easy to get around without a car. Any household, including those with lower incomes, should be able to find suitable housing in a transit oriented development.
- Allow more compact infill. Currently, most residential neighborhoods only allow low-density housing, which is more expensive and consumes more land and energy than townhouses and low-rise apartments. Upzone residential neighborhoods to allow more compact, affordable development.
- Implement Transportation Demand Management. Governments can require large employers to have Commute Trip Reduction programs, and apply other strategies that encourage resource-efficient travel.
- Significantly reduce parking minimums. Our current policies require developers to subsidize vehicle parking, which is costly, inefficient and unfair. Experts call this a “fertility drug for cars.” Many cities are reducing or eliminating parking minimums, so households no longer forced to pay for expensive parking facilities that they don’t need.
- Encourage electric vehicles. Develop more public recharging stations to encourage electric vehicle use.
- Make buildings more energy-efficient. Accelerate Step Code standards, so all new construction is state-of-art building efficiency, and support retrofits of existing homes and commercial buildings to increase energy efficiency.
- Improve compact building design. Support professional development programs and contests to encourage better design of compact and efficient buildings.
This is a bold but feasible program that if fully implemented could achieve our goals and provide other benefits. The costs of these policies is small compared with what governments, businesses and families now spent on roads, parking, vehicles and fuel. Their costs can be repaid many times over with future savings and benefits, including infrastructure and transportation savings, improved safety and health, better mobility for non-drivers, local economic development, and environmental protection.
This is not a “war on cars.” A more efficient transport system benefits motorists by reducing congestion and crash costs, and chauffeuring burdens.
What do we want? More efficient and affordable communities! When do we want them? Now!
Cities for Everyone is an independent advocacy organization that supports more affordable housing and transportation options in the Capital Regional District. For more information visit www.citiesforeveryone.org.