What city can learn from Vancouver

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The City of Vancouver might think the Olympics were great. Instead of being subject to the burdensome costs of hosting the games, the city is attempting to address serious problems to make sure they never happen again. Part of Vancouver’s current challenge is environmental.

As a city working to respond to Canada’s declining life expectancy, the City of Vancouver is trying to limit the effects of climate change and build a society that is both livable and sustainable. In addition to that effort, Vancouver has helped to establish environmental goals and policies, supported clean air, water and climate action, and pushed back against environmental extremism. The city’s approach, backed by over a decade of determined leadership and collaborative decision-making, is delivering good results for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

But that climate action approach is being greatly undermined by actions by Canada’s Health Minister. The Ministry is moving to re-write regulations affecting coal-fired power plants, utility-scale solar and wind power, and other pollutants that contribute to the climate crisis. These pollutants often find their way into the air on a daily basis, contributing to air pollution levels that contribute to compromised health and limited life expectancy in British Columbia. These proposed rules will allow for massive polluters to continue to worsen health in the city.

Having talked to people across the social and economic spectrum in the city, the doctors, nurses, CEOs, and trade unionists I’ve met say it is crucial that the government is held accountable for their actions on coal plants and other pollutants. While the Canadian government claims it is committed to a climate and clean energy agenda, Canadians are still paying the price through public health impacts that are contributing to the climate crisis. As an expert on cities, I am concerned that the Ministry’s actions and rhetoric do not reflect an understanding of the problems they are creating.

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