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Vancouver's Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP)

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver already has one of the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of any major city in North America. Vancouver City Council has set an ambitious target to reach 100% renewable energy (100RE) by 2050. Vancouver can reach 100RE, an imminently achievable goal, mostly thanks to the city's large supply of hydroelectricity (over 90% of electricity in Vancouver is from hydro). Vancouver issued the 100RE target in March 2015, making Vancouver the first major North American city to develop a 100RE target.

Vancouver is one of the world's most sustainable cities, but is striving to be the "greenest city in the world". Over 95% of Vancouver's electricity is supplied by renewable energy (over 90% hydroelectricity, and a modest amount of other renewables).

Vancouver's Climate Action Team created the city's Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP), and this plan was adopted by the city council way back in July 2011. As part of the GCAP,  the City of Vancouver has issued a mandate to retrofit buildings citywide to increase energy efficiency. Vancouver has also invested a lot of money and time into expanding its sustainable mass transit network. Vancouver today has a vast network of buses, trolleys, rail, commuter shuttles, and even SeaBus routes.

Vancouver must continue making substantial investments in highly energy efficient green buildings and sustainable public mass transportation systems.

The GCAP includes:

The following quote about GCAP sums up the current status of the far-reaching set of projects:   

"So much has changed since the Greenest City Action Plan was conceived over a decade years ago. GCAP has been instrumental in guiding our actions towards zero carbon emissions, zero waste, and healthy ecosystems.

We’re now building on those successes and more aggressively reducing Vancouver’s carbon pollution in alignment with the latest climate science. Our climate work will continue through the Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP), which will cut Vancouver’s carbon pollution in half by 2030, and our Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, preparing Vancouver for climate impacts.  

Additionally, the Vancouver Plan will continue to engage residents on a broader environmental plan."    FROM -

Vancouver's Green Initiatives -

Urban Planning and Green Building

View of downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park

Urban planning has been relied on in order to keep Vancouver's city design as clean and efficient as possible, with a concept called eco-density. This refers to building vertically (as in skyscrapers, high-rise buildings, etc...), as opposed to creating urban sprawl.

The City of Vancouver has the goal of building exclusively energy efficient buildings for all new buildings in the city. Along with retrofits, all buildings in the city are mandated to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

In addition to carbon-neutral buildings - the sewers, parks, water utilities, roadways, and energy supply in the city, are being worked on with the goal of Vancouver becoming "the greenest city on earth".

Over 90% of Vancouver's residents live within a 5-minute walk of green spaces, and the density of Vancouver's urban forest is ~ 18%. The City has made efforts to preserve urban green spaces, city parks, street trees, pocket parks, etc...

Stanley Park and West End Vancouver

Vancouver's largest park, Stanley Park, is a little larger in size than even NYC's Central Park. Here are a couple of blurbs about Stanley Park -

"One of North America’s largest urban green spaces, Stanley Park is revered for its dramatic forest-and-mountain oceanfront views. Built in stages between 1917 and 1980, the park's 8.8km seawall trail is Vancouver's favorite outdoor hangout."    FROM -

"Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park's famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with...Canada’s largest aquarium."   FROM  -

Sustainable Transit in Vancouver

A cyclist travels on the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver

Pedestrians and cyclists are a priority in Vancouver. Biking and walking are encouraged - by citywide programs that maintain the city's natural beauty with green spaces along most city sidewalks and bike paths. Vancouver has land-use patterns that encourage walking and biking by creating high-density city centers and widening sidewalks and paths.

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were a source of increased sustainability solutions. The sustainable city projects from the 2010 Games have been maintained, providing for greater cycling and pedestrian ease of transit, and less automotive traffic. One major change was the creation of large, safe, and expansive bike lanes. The city features over 279 miles of bike trails.

Many major cities don’t have appropriate infrastructure for safe cycling or walking, or don’t have reliable mass transit systems. These problems continue to turn people off from ditching their cars for more sustainable options. Infrastructure is an important investment for cities that wish to be more environmentally friendly. Cities worldwide could learn a lot from Vancouver, the standout alternative transit city of North America.

Vancouver encourages alternative transportation modes. TransLink is Vancouver's mass transit network. Mass public transit options in Vancouver include TransLink's extensive public bus systemstrolleybuses, as well as TransLink's autonomous rapid transit rail and commuter rail lines (SkyTrain and West Coast Express). Vancouver's mass transit options utilize some of the latest cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

TransLink has added electric and hybrid buses to its bus fleet and plans further electrification of Vancouver's fleet of buses. TransLink has a goal of reducing GHG emissions from its entire mass transit fleet by 80% by 2050, with a more immediate goal of 45% GHG reduction by 2030. Translink primarily seeks to achieve these GHG reduction goals by converting its bus fleet to electric buses, although renewable energy sources will be used for some forms of the city's mass transit as well.

SkyTrain Rail Rapid Transit in Vancouver

Efficient, sustainable public transit in Vancouver is perhaps exemplified best by SkyTrain, which is constantly expanding beyond its over 400 SkyTrain train cars, over 50 stations, and 3 lines. SkyTrain is one of the largest autonomous mass public transit systems in the world.

Vancouver is the only major North American city without a freeway running through the inner-urban area. In the late 1960s, residents first rejected a plan that would separate the city from the iconic waterfront with a freeway, and no such freeway plan has passed in Vancouver since then.

This transit dilemma in Vancouver led to the development of the SkyTrain, the West Coast Express, SeaBus, and the ongoing development of trolleybuses. There are SkyTrain lines connecting downtown Vancouver with other major nearby Canadian cities and connecting to the Vancouver International airport, as well as new rail lines, running to such places as the Waterfront.

Vancouver’s next goal is to have 66% of all trips within the city made by walking, cycling, or public transit by 2040. As part of the city's effort to encourage cycling and pedestrians, the city will continue to make investments in large, protected bike lanes, better side-street lighting, and improved crosswalks. Vancouver has implemented these safety measures, in combination with the increased proliferation of educational materials about why using these modes of transit is important for the environment, and how to use these transit modes safely and efficiently.

Please Click & Read:

Vancouver - Alternative transit capital of North America

Vancouver SeaBus

In addition to the many sustainable land-based modes of public transit, Vancouver offers the SeaBus.

There are 4 double-decker ferries in the SeaBus fleet (Vancouver's 4th SeaBus became operational in July 2021), each holding up to 400 passengers.

Each ferry does 2-4 trips an hour and runs over 100 hours per week, accounting for millions of trips annually (less post-COVID). The trips run for under 15 minutes most of the time and connect Waterfront Station (SkyTrain terminals) and downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver's markets and Transit Exchange.

Another step toward the modernization, electrification, and decarbonization of transportation in the city - Vancouver requires all new condos in the city have electric vehicle charging stations. EV charging infrastructure will need to be expanded greatly in order for Vancouver to achieve its decarbonization goals in the transportation sector.

Please also click & read:

Vancouver - Greenest City 2020

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  1. Please let us here at Green City Times know what you think in a comment; and we’ll try and answer any questions as well.

    Please also visit our other blog at

    [Dan Braff is the founder of GCT –

    Daniel Braff]

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