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Surrey aims to reduce community greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030

Surrey council approved a Climate Change Action Strategy on July 24

Surrey aims to reduce community greenhouse gases by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to also attain a 100 per cent reduction in community and corporate emissions by 2050 through a Climate Change Action Strategy council approved on July 24.

Council also directed city staff to report back on “financing options” to meet this target, and to begin 37 “quick-start actions” within two years.

Meantime, Coun. Doug Elford made a dark speech at the July 24 council meeting.

“It’s important municipalities like ours walk the walk, however I question the impact of these changes on a world-wide scale,” he said. “I mean, you can call me a climate pessimist – I really, and I’ve said this before, I really have a hard time believing that mankind can meet, can do what they need to do, to get where we want, to get this earth turned around.”

Elford noted that at the height of the pandemic, after the world “shut down” for a month in March 2020, it became apparent the planet has the ability to regenerate itself, “and that’s positive, but that takes a tremendous amount of commitment for mankind and I don’t know if we have the ability to do that.”

“We can only do what we can do ourselves, which is walk the walk ourselves and do as governors can do up here but, you know, the world’s on fire right now and I am surprised at the exponential amount, at the speed of how climate change is affecting this Earth. I really am surprised by this and it is very alarming,” Elford said.

“Do what we can I guess, and I think that mitigation is really where we should be focusing in the future.”

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Meanwhile, Coun. Mandeep Nagra said he’s excited by how the city is designing roads with “much wider” sidewalks.

“Especially the e-bike sharing program, that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Mayor Brenda Locke welcomed the report, saying dealing with climate change is “one of the city’s key priorities moving forward. And as councillor Elford said, the wildfires across this country, global heatwaves and atmospheric rainfall events, it is very apparent that climate change is upon us. We are in a climate crisis, there is no doubt climate action is required from all levels of government, business and residents, we all must do our part as best we can.”

As for the quick-start actions, Locke said she’d like to see them implemented as soon as possible, including working with community associations as well as the city’s environment and climate change committee.

“It’s something we can do quickly and get to work on immediately,” she said.

According to the 85-page Climate Action Strategy report, in 2020 the city’s total carbon emissions were roughly 2.4 million tonnes per year.

A breakdown of pollution sources in Surrey, as far as community-generated emissions are concerned, 45 per cent comes from vehicles with 38 per cent from the roughly 235,000 passenger vehicles registered in Surrey, seven per cent from freight trucks and other commercial vehicles, and 0.8 per cent from public transit.

Buildings are Surrey’s second-largest source of the city’s community emissions, accounting for more than 42 per cent of the total, and “non-road” equipment such as agricultural and construction machinery contributing 8.2 per cent. Waste – primarily in the form of methane released by landfills – makes up for three per cent and industry, 0.52 per cent.

Carbon emissions generated by the City of Surrey amount to one per cent of community emissions, mostly from burning gas for heating arenas, pools, fire halls, community centres, libraries and administrative buildings. Under the plan, these can be reduced by replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps.

The City of Surrey is also transitioning to electric vehicles in its fleet and since April waste-hauling trucks have been running on renewable natural gas from Surrey’s biofuel facility.

The strategy report acknowledges that while transitioning to electric and zero-emissions vehicles is also “critical for reducing emissions and air pollution” electric vehicles “are not an equitable or affordable option for many residents. And we simply don’t have the space for wider roads, regardless of whether they are gas-powered or electric.

“Considering these factors,” the report reads, “this strategy takes a holistic approach by prioritizing a shift to walking, cycling, and transit while continuing to support vehicle electrification.”


About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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