How local governments can influence and mitigate emissions

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimates that local governments directly, or indirectly, influence about half the greenhouse gas emissions (emissions) in Canada, including emissions related to transportation and buildings.[1] There are two categories for local government action in reducing these emissions.

  • Local government efforts to reduce their corporate emissions focus on areas that are within their direct control, primarily local government-owned buildings, infrastructure, and fleets.
  • Reducing community-wide emissions means focusing on areas that local governments influence indirectly or in part. These include land use patterns, transportation behaviour, solid waste, building efficiency standards for new construction, energy efficiency of privately-owned buildings.

The global context

Reducing GHG emissions is critical in reducing the impact of climate changes caused by human activity, namely global warming and its knock-on effects. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s prediction that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2013 and 2052 and climate-related risks to health, livelihood, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.

IPCC SR15 emissions pathways
IPCC warming trends and emissions pathways to 2100 [2]

BC’s provincial emissions inventory

The Climate Action Secretariat (CAS) in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy prepares an annual provincial emissions inventory that reports the GHG emissions included in the Province’s legislated emissions reduction targets.

In the latest available inventory year, 2019, total estimated emissions were 68.6 Megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). This represents an increase of 5% since 2007 (65.6 MtCO2e) and 22% since 1990 (56.2 MtCO2e).

Learn more about and download the provincial emissions inventory.

CleanBC Roadmap to 2030

A climate strategy for British Columbia

The Roadmap to 2030 is the Province’s strategy for reducing emissions.

Roadmap cover

Corporate emissions

Part of planning for low carbon resilience (LCR) involves identifying areas that are within a local government’s direct control, such as municipal buildings and infrastructure (offices, recreation centres, public works facilities, local government utility infrastructure) and vehicle fleets (emergency, public works, solid waste, light duty).

By demonstrating corporate leadership, a local government can encourage residents and local businesses to participate in community-wide emissions reductions efforts as well as ongoing awareness and engagement in climate change mitigation.

As BC Climate Action Charter signatories, local governments have committed to working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality in their corporate operations.

Planning tools for addressing corporate emissions reductions include:

Local governments’ corporate mitigation efforts are recognized through the Green Communities Committee (GCC) Climate Action Recognition Program.

Corporate emissions

Reducing community-wide emissions focuses on community-wide energy use, emphasising long-term plans and policies in the land use, transportation, buildings, infrastructure, and waste sectors.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimates that local governments directly or indirectly influence of about half the emissions in Canada, including emissions related to transportation, residential buildings, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings, and waste. [3]

Corporate Emissions, District of North Vancouver
Corporate Emissions, District of North Vancouver [4]

Climate action planning tools that can be used by local governments to take action on reducing community-wide emissions include:

Adopting a low carbon resilience lens and integrating planning and implementing of emissions reduction and adaption measures is an ideal approach over considering emissions and adaptation separately.