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Green Communities

Green Communities are complete, compact communities that encourage "mixed-use" development and the use of alternative modes of transportation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


Green Communities promote lighter infrastructure and energy efficient buildings that are easier on the environment and use alternative energy sources. They are communities that recognize the value of preserving and protecting wetlands and treed areas. Finally, Green Communities are resilient and meet citizens' essential needs.


The provincial government (Province) is committed to addressing climate change and to reducing GHG emissions. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act (2007) established targets to reduce B.C. GHG emissions.


The Province expects to reduce GHG emissions 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050. The B.C. Climate Action Plan (2008) outlines strategies and initiatives to help B.C. meet these targets.


The Province, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and local governments share a common understanding that the effects of climate change are evident across B.C.


There is also a mutual understanding that reducing GHG emissions will generate environmental and health benefits for individuals, families, and communities. The importance of working together to share best practices on how to reduce GHG emissions and address the impacts of climate change is also acknowledged.


This shared understanding and commitment to take action is reflected in the BC Climate Action Charter. The Charter was signed by the Province, UBCM and local governments at the 2007 UBCM Convention.


To date, the overwhelming majority of local governments have signed the Charter [ 63 KB]. By signing the Climate Action Charter, local governments, in addition to becoming carbon neutral in respect of their corporate operations by 2012, have committed to take action to:

  • measure and report on their community’s GHG emissions profile;
  • create complete, compact, more energy efficient rural and urban communities. For example, they may:
    • foster a built environment that supports a reduction in car dependency and energy use;
    • establish policies and processes that support fast tracking of green development projects; and
    • adopt zoning practices that encourage land use and patterns that increase density and reduce sprawl.
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The Climate Action Revenue Incentive program (CARIP) provides conditional grants to local governments that sign onto the Climate Action Charter. The grant is equal to 100 per cent of the carbon taxes paid annually by local governments and is intended to support local government climate change efforts.


The Joint Provincial – UBCM Green Communities Committee (GCC) was established under the Climate Action Charter. The GCC is working to:

  • define a range of actions that can affect climate change
  • build local government capacity to plan and implement climate change initiatives
  • support local governments in taking action to make their own operations carbon neutral by 2012, and
  • share information to support climate change activities.

A key deliverable of the GCC has been the BC Climate Action Toolkit website. The Toolkit website is a comprehensive resource to support local governments in taking climate action. It provides the latest news, best practices and practical advice so that local governments can take steps to reduce emissions and create more complete, compact communities.


The GCC has prepared a Carbon Neutral Workbook to assist local governments in achieving carbon neutrality by 2012. The “draft guidance material” is meant to provide the necessary tools and supports to local governments to measure and report on their corporate emissions by 2012.


As part of its commitment to support local governments in pursuing the goals identified under the Climate Action Charter, the Province is working to provide communities with additional tools and information (PDF, 51KB) they need to support provincial GHG reduction goals and become Green Communities.

 

Local governments have expanded authority under the Local Government Act to mitigate impacts of new developments and rehabilitation projects by establishing development permit areas (DPAs) for climate action. DPAs can now be created for the purposes of promoting energy and water conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Development Permit Areas for Climate Action: A Guide for GHG emissions Reduction, Energy Conservation and Water Conservation was developed for local governments interested in using this DPA authority.


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The Province has published the Guide to Green Choices to encourage positive, sustainable land use decisions by local governments and provide practical advice on how to create more liveable communities with reduced GHG and energy emissions.


The Local Government (Green Communities) Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 27, 2008) removes legislative barriers for local governments. The legislation ensures local governments have the necessary authority to take action to reduce GHG emissions, conserve energy and water and make their communities more socially and environmentally sustainable.


One of the 2008 Local Government Act amendments focuses on local governments setting targets to reduce GHG emissions within their communities, as well as developing policies and actions to achieve those targets. Local governments are required to have such targets, policies and actions in their Official Community Plans (OCPs) by May 31, 2010, and in their Regional Growth Strategies (RGSs) by May 31, 2011.


In May and June 2009, Ministry staff delivered a series of workshops to local government staff regarding developing targets, policies and actions for GHG reduction.


Sustainability facilitators from Smart Planning for Communities assisted Provincial staff in delivering these workshops. Smart Planning for Communities can assist local governments as they continue to implement actions to reduce GHG emissions and conserve energy.


Additionally, the Ministry developed the Quick Action Ideas Elected Officials brochure. This document describes quick start suggestions to address climate action and the companion piece, On-the-Ground Examples, provides climate action examples from various communities in B.C. that are putting the quick start suggestions into action.


The Local Government Act includes authority for local governments to waive or reduce Development Cost Charges (DCCs). DCCs can be waived for a subdivision of small lots designed to result in low GHG emissions, and for developments designed to have a low-environmental impact.


Densification and small lot development can reduce GHG emissions by concentrating development within a small area and by focusing on development within areas of existing development (infill). DCC waivers and reductions can also be provided for not-for-profit as well as for-profit affordable rental housing. To further encourage very small dwelling units, no DCCs are payable on all small dwelling units of 29 square metres (312 square feet) or smaller.


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Local leaders require better information on the source and amount of GHG emissions attributable to their communities to improve decision-making. To support this need for improved information, the Ministry has been working closely with the Ministry of Environment to provide local governments with the Community Energy and Emissions Inventory (CEEI).


CEEI reports were released in March 2009, providing local governments with essential information on their energy and emissions profile. CEEI data shows how much electricity, natural gas and other fuels are used in a community and the GHG emissions generated.


Land use and the way that infrastructure is designed and managed impacts when and how much energy is consumed and how many GHG emissions are produced; as well as the long-term cost to the local government. 

 

Tools such as the Community Infrastructure Planning Decision Support Tool can be used by local governments to determine the long-term lifecycle costs of alternate development scenarios.  The Province piloted the tool with several B.C. communities to identify quantifiable B.C.-based evidence of the financial costs and benefits to local governments in B.C. of developing in a more compact way.

 

By designing more compact communities rather than low density developments, less land is required. This allows green space to be protected and provides ecological services like infiltration of rainwater. Infiltration avoids the need for "heavy" infrastructure, such as networks of storm drain pipes.

 

Rethinking the relationship between land-use and infrastructure can also reduce the amount of energy needed to construct and deliver services, as well as facilitate transportation services that are less energy intense (e.g. walking, biking, and car-sharing). 

 

More complete and compact development contributes to increased energy efficiency and reductions in GHG emissions. The document Exploring Transformational Change: Local Government Climate Pathways to 2050 (PDF 4.3 MG) provides examples of what some local governments in B.C. are doing to help transform their communities and  achieve their energy and GHG emissions reduction goals and targets.


A complimentary means to lower GHG emissions and reduce the cost of infrastructure is through Integrated Resource Recovery (IRR). IRR is an integrated, whole-system approach to planning and managing infrastructure to maximize the recovery of value from waste resources.


This approach mimics the closed-loop cycles present in all ecosystems, providing local sources of energy, water and other resources, to reduce demand from external or new sources. In nature, water, carbon, and nutrients are treated as renewable resources and continually recycled. IRR creates synergies to protect and restore natural capital, increase economic values, create social opportunities, and apply whole systems approaches to the planning and management of waste, water, and energy.


Resources from Waste: A Guide to Integrated Resource Recovery (PDF 4.1 MG) sets out the various tools and techniques available to local governments.


In addition to the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP), the Ministry maintains a list of grant opportunities for local governments looking for financial resources to continue their work on climate action.


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