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Credit: Jason Vanderhill/Flickr

For those frustrated with federal inaction on climate change, it’s welcome news: “Local governments influence about half of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” says climate change expert Alex Boston.

According to Boston, a former senior climate analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation and now a consultant with the Holland Barrs Planning Group, Canada’s municipalities are slowly waking up to both their opportunities and their responsibility to mitigate climate change.

Vancouver is one of the few cities in Canada that has managed to slow the growth in its greenhouse gas emissions, he says.

Boston notes some impressive stats resulting from the densification of downtown: vehicle numbers across the city are stable, and vehicle kilometres travelled are down 30 per cent over the last decade, despite a population increase of 50,000. Trips by transit are up 50 per cent. Bike and pedestrian trips have doubled.

But Boston says Metro Vancouver can’t be too smug: despite the changes already made, the area’s greenhouse gas emissions are still growing. They are projected to be 23 per cent above 1990 levels by 2010, and 35 per cent above 1990 levels by 2020. Compare that to Portland, Oregon, which has already brought its greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels, and is now working on further cuts.

Doing the same here is possible, says Boston, but it will require serious collaboration between local governments on transportation and land-use issues, as well as firm direction from the provincial government – and perhaps a rethink of that plan to twin the Port Mann bridge.