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Vancouver second greenest city: Economist Intelligence Unit

Vancouver, second greenest city, skyline as seen from Queen Elizabeth Park. Photo courtesy of Brandon Godfrey via the Vancouver Observer - Photo Pool

Vancouver ranks second to San Francisco in a green city index published last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a business and economic research group.

"[San Francisco's] exceptional performance is supported by its strong record in all categories across the board: along with Vancouver, it is the only city to place in the top ten in all Index categories," the report states.

The US and Canada Green City Index, sponsored by Siemens, ranks 27 major U.S. and Canadian cities based on their performance in nine environmental performance categories: CO2, energy, land use, buildings, transport, water, waste, air and environmental governance. 

Vancouver topped all other cities in the CO2 emissions and air quality categories.

"Measured against economic output, Vancouver emits just an estimated 111 metric tons of CO2 per $1 million of GDP, compared with the Index average of 296 metric tons," the report states.

The city earned praise for the Neighbourhood Energy Utility, a city-owned utility that generates heat and hot water from untreated urban waste-water, the first of its kind in North America.

But Vancouver fared weakest in the environmental governance category, placing tenth, due to "a comparative lack of transparency."

"Not all of the city’s targets have been reported, and while information is accessible and the sustainability campaign is widely known, data is not collected and provided in a unified location," the report states.

'Vancouver Green Capital'

The city launched the Vancouver Green Capital initiative in 2009 in an effort to achieve the world’s greenest city designation by 2020. Mayor Gregor Robertson assembled a Greenest City Action Team that consists of several high-profile figures such as environmentalist David Suzuki, former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt and environmental lawyer David Boyd.   

Boyd authored the team’s dictum and mission statement, titled Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future. It outlines three target categories to be achieved by 2020: green economy, greener communities and human health.

"Making Vancouver the greenest city in the world will require harnessing the city’s greatest resources—its people, businesses, NGOs, schools, and institutions," writes Boyd.

The Green City Index relies on statistics that go as far back as 2005, and all of the numbers precede the Vancouver's current environmental policies and initiatives, which were approved by council this year. Likewise, some data are City of Vancouver specific while others are Metro Vancouver figures that include surrounding municipalities like Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Richmond and Surrey.

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