Whistler's GHG emissions continue to rise 

Council to receive quarterly CECAP updates

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - trending up Whistler's total community-wide greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, driven largely by passenger vehicles and natural gas consumption.
  • PHOTO by braden dupuis
  • trending up Whistler's total community-wide greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, driven largely by passenger vehicles and natural gas consumption.

Whistler's greenhouse gas emissions and energy use continue to trend in the wrong direction.

While Whistler averaged greenhouse gas reductions of about 3.8 per cent annually from 2008 to 2012, the resort has averaged a 4.7 per cent increase in total emissions each year since 2014.

In 2017, total community emissions rose by four per cent over 2016.

As such, Whistler's GHG reduction goal of 33 per cent by 2020 (compared to 2007 levels) is all but out of reach.

"To hit that 2020 target would require about 10,000 tonnes of reductions per year. That has never been achieved locally here before," said director of corporate, economic and environmental services Ted Battiston, in presenting the 2017 Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Performance Trends report at the Aug. 14 council meeting. "I don't see any way that we're going to make that 2020 target with the pattern over the last couple of years."

Total energy consumption was also up 5.6 per cent year over year, due at least in part to a colder 2017 winter and an increase in local population equivalent (permanent residents plus seasonal residents and visitors).

At the same time, total energy consumption per population equivalent has decreased for six of the last seven years, with 2017 levels being the second lowest ever recorded.

In terms of energy expenditures, Whistler spent almost $89 million last year—up $40 million from the $49 million spent in 2000.

The big emission reduction gains from 2008 to 2012 were largely due to "one-off" projects, like converting from piped propane to natural gas and the landfill cap and capture project.

Tackling the perennial emitters has proven more challenging.

"This passenger vehicle percentage, it's been in that 55 to 57 per cent chunk for about the last seven or eight years, meaning it's continued to be the biggest piece of our emissions profile year over year," Battiston said.

In 2017, passenger vehicles produced the most emissions locally at 57 per cent, followed by natural gas consumption at 33 per cent.

"This is a sobering report, and with our current context I think it's incumbent on us to do things differently in response," said Councillor Jack Crompton. "A significant majority of our emissions are related to passenger vehicles, and I think if we are serious about addressing our emissions increasing local transit ridership is critical."

Though council officially endorsed its Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) in July 2016, the document has taken a backseat in recent years to the housing and transportation files.

Coun. Sue Maxwell has stressed the need to make it a priority since the process started.

"I was wondering why—when it was clear in the plan that there was meant to be a staff person, that there was meant to be a committee, and that many of these actions were meant to take place in two years and that council has been told that there was adequate staff time to get them done—why have they not been done?" Maxwell asked at the Aug. 14 meeting.

"I think it's priorities and resources," Battiston replied, noting that staff has been busy with work on transportation and housing.

"Particularly the (mayor's task force on resident housing) is occupying a huge amount of the CAO team's time ... that was a decision made by staff and by council and is supported in those budgets," he said.

The RMOW has put in a grant application with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for a "climate action officer," Battiston noted, which if successful would cover 80 per cent of the wage of the position for two years.

But the position shouldn't be dependent on a grant, Maxwell said.

"I think a lot of the citizens who were part of developing this plan certainly expected that staff would be hired to do this, and so it's been very disappointing and I think we see it in the results," she said.

"If we're going to get climate change actions happening in the community, we need to be starting to change behaviours ... and I don't think we can influence behaviours if we're not having staff and people meeting and discussing what the different things are."

Also at the Aug. 14 meeting, council passed a resolution to require quarterly updates on CECAP initiatives from staff, along with the annual GHG and energy use report.

The full report can be found in the Aug. 14 council package starting on page 50: www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/meeting-agendas-and-minutes.

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