Vancouver’s fanciful greenhouse gas number: What it omits

Aerial view of Vanier Park and the West EndIntroduction: Below is an excerpt from Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus (July 2015), in which Jon Petrie revisits his themes of “Our Post-Truth Culture and Greenwash.” Petrie’s central claim is this:

Lies and omissions of salient information by corporations and governments go unchallenged in Vancouver, B.C.; we live in a post-truth era, and unless we forcibly challenge disinformation, then we as a community have lost the possibility of rational public engagement on both minor issues and the key issue of our time: likely climate holocaust.

As the UN COP21 climate conference continues in Paris this week, Vancouver and its representatives are bathing in the limelight as climate leaders. Indeed, many of the declarations and policies of the City of Vancouver and its politicians are going in the right direction. But many are not, and could be described as greenwashing, and some of that acclaim is undeserved. (For example, see “Greenest City” mostly greenwash, by Elizabeth Murphy, in Common Ground.)

As the world faces the prospects of severe climate change, everyone so dearly hopes for saviours. Vancouver is willing and ready for that role, but much of the acclaim being given to Vancouver becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, lacking in intelligent and persistent scrutiny. Petrie, through his writings challenges the global media, opinion leaders, and citizens themselves to challenge disinformation. To date none of the organizations targeted by Mr. Petrie’s criticism have responded in any substantial way, despite his persistent efforts to get their responses for the past two years.

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Vancouver’s fanciful greenhouse gas number: What it Omits
by Jon Petrie)

Peter Ladner in his “hoax” column [“Tilting at mountain windmills and other empty green hype” in Business in Vancouver 14-Jul-2014] wrote: “… researcher Jon Petrie … says the City of Vancouver’s much-lauded Greenest City 2020 Action [Plan] vastly underestimate per-capita carbon emissions.  Unlike many other cities, Vancouver doesn’t count marine, rail or aviation emissions … it ignores embodied carbon in goods imported into the city (like cement produced in Delta); and it claims huge gains from potent landfill gas (methane) recovery at the landfill, even though the city’s own data shows decreasing rates of landfill gas recovery.”

As far as I know these Peter Ladner words are the only questioning in any mainstream publication, ever, of Vancouver’s official CO2e numbers.

While many North American cities do fail to make sufficiently clear that the CO2e numbers highlighted in their cities’ green house gas inventories are only a small subset of total emissions responsibility, the City of Vancouver, presumably motivated by its “greenest city” self branding and enabled by a culture that condones misrepresentation, is the worst offender amongst the supposedly enlightened North American cities in its spinning of “community” CO2e numbers.

Vancouver claims its “community-based green house gas emissions” were in 2013 about 4.2 tonnes of CO2e per capita.  Seattle and Vancouver are similar geographically, economically and in consumption patterns and thus, presumably, similar in their CO2e per capita responsibility.  Seattle estimates its annual emissions responsibility as 25 tonnes of CO2e per capita.  Beyond my own writings, I have not seen this Seattle 25 tonne CO2e number referenced in any publication. (3) (4)

A few sentences from New York City’s CO2e inventory (2013): “Past GHG [CO2e] inventories … focus[ed] principally on [emissions] … associated with energy and transportation use, solid waste generation … [this] production-based accounting approach … fails to account for the full life cycle GHG emissions …  A consumption-based GHG emissions inventory will provide a more complete estimate of GHG emissions related to activities within a city, and can serve as a valuable educational tool … Preliminary results indicate that a consumption-based approach could more than double the city’s attributable emissions, moving accountability away from producers outside of the city to consumers inside the city.” (5)

The City of Vancouver needs to make a similar statement and state that Vancouver’s per capita total responsibility for climate changing emissions is probably close to Seattle’s estimated 25 tonnes of CO2e per capita.

Read the full article here:

https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/falsus-in-uno-falsus-in-omnibus/

And see the original story from 2013 here:

‘Our Post-Truth Culture and Greenwash’ essay by Jon Petrie raises alarms bells: Misinformation on a Vancouver ‘steam’ clock, a wind turbine, and carbon emissions

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Excerpt from Peter Ladner’s “Tilting at mountain windmills and other empty green hype” in Business in Vancouver 14-Jul-2014.

Even more contentious are several issues raised by intrepid researcher Jon Petrie. He says the City of Vancouver’s much-lauded Greenest City 2020 Action Plan’s annual reports vastly underestimate per-capita carbon emissions. Unlike many other cities, Vancouver doesn’t count marine, rail or aviation emissions, including flights taken by Metro Vancouver residents; it ignores embodied carbon in goods imported into the city (like cement produced in Delta); and it claims huge gains from potent landfill gas (methane) recovery at the landfill, even though the city’s own data shows decreasing rates of landfill gas recovery. No surprise, then, that our emissions are about 4.8 tonnes per capita while Seattle’s are 12.5. Well done, everyone!

Petrie has a quote from former University of British Columbia professor and “eco-footprint” originator Bill Rees agreeing with his criticisms: “The way Vancouver presents itself is misleading,” Rees acknowledges.

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