Quick Starts in Medium and Large Communities

Medium and large communities have a critical role to play in advancing a climate change agenda. They are the source of the overwhelming majority of BC’s emissions. With innovations in land use, transportation, buildings and infrastructure, they could be home to the biggest reductions.

Think Big, Start Small

Comprehensive programs address other community priorities that complement climate action. / LiveSmart BC

Initiating an ambitious climate action program can be challenging. Many communities find the best way to kick-start a successful program is by seizing on a couple of projects or policies. They often meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Straightforward;
  • High impact on GHGs;
  • Strong business case;
  • Highly educational for elected officials, staff and/or the community; and
  • Easily integrated into initiatives already underway.

This guidance highlights and contextualizes some quick starts for medium and large communities in the following sectors:

Big Picture Measures | Land Use | Transportation | Local Government Fleets | Buildings – Community Wide | Buildings – Government Operations | Infrastructure

Eventually most communities will develop comprehensive programs. They will be compelled not only by the impact of climate change on local infrastructure and industries, but also out of desire to address other community priorities that complement climate action: managing risk against rising energy costs, community economic development, and promoting healthier lifestyles through community design.

Big Picture Measures

Civic Green Team

There is a wide range of options for kick starting action in local government operations. There are many permutations to each one of those options. There are also naturally many institutional barriers to advancing any big new agenda. The best to way to increase understanding of the challenges and opportunities, identify priorities, foster a sense of ownership, and begin to navigate around the barriers, is by establishing a local government green team. Composed of staff from across different departments, the climate team or sustainability team should have a mandate from Council/Board and the CAO, and have engagement from some senior staff. 

Life Cycle Costing

As individuals, as organizations, in the public sector, in the private sector – there is a tendency to focus on first costs, and simple paybacks, rather than costs over the useful lives of capital investments. Because climate change and energy efficiency often – not always – comes at a premium, it is really important to look beyond the sticker or the payback to net present value costs. Applying a full life cycle costing, or comparison of options to all major capital expenditures can improve fiscal performance and reduce GHGs.

Framing Climate Action

The most successful local government greenhouse gas reduction programs have not focused on climate change. They have focused on air pollution, economic development, traffic congestion, livability, land protection, fiscal performance or some other priority that really resonates with elected officials, staff and the community. 

Land Use

Smart Neighbourhood

Developing a smart growth town overnight is not possible. For many communities, building a Smart Neighbourhood within several years is entirely possible. It is an opportunity for local government to collaborate with a developer and local residents in the visioning and creation of a low carbon community. Characterized by higher-than-normal density, mixed-use, centralized, and permeable street accessibility, a smart neighbourhood is where people live, work, learn and play. It reduces car transportation emissions, and ideally can be a catalyst for subsequent sustainable development. For more information, see Smart Neighbourhoods.

Density Bonusing

Density Bonusing is a land use policy tool that permits local government to allow increased density in exchange for a contribution towards a community amenity or other benefit. Community amenities and benefits typically include parks, day care or affordable housing, but can also include climate action items such as alternative transportation investments and low-emissions buildings. From a climate action perspective, Density Bonusing is doubly beneficial, as higher densities can create opportunities for transit service, viable retail uses, and infrastructure savings. If used in conjunction with brownfield or infill development policies, Density Bonusing can also help centralize urban growth, which also helps reduce people’s need to drive. For more information, see Density Bonusing.


Sustainable Transportation Plan

In BC, the transportation sector is the largest source of GHG emissions. Local government can play a central role in reducing transportation emissions by integrating of land use and sustainable transportation planning in decision-making processes. Sustainable transportation planning can be incorporated into OCP reviews, or neighbourhood plans. Alternatively, sustainable transportation planning can focus on a single initiative, like a pedestrian plan for downtown, or a community wide cycling network plan. See Transportation Plan for more information.

Complete Streets Strategy / Model

A local government can review its road standards, and revise them to balance the needs of all modes of transportation including cyclists, wheelchair users, pedestrians, automobiles, and transit. Complete streets not only encourage non-auto travel, but are safer and more aesthetically appealing places. Try to initiate a complete streets pilot project, perhaps as part of an in-process or upcoming local area planning process. Or even better, help ensure that complete streets are on the agenda as part of an OCP review.Complete streets make it enticing to get out of the car, and get around on lower-emission transportation modes. / Ben Miller for Complete the Streets.

Local Government Fleets

Energy Efficient Vehicle Purchasing Strategy

An energy efficient vehicle purchasing strategy, implemented through vehicle purchasing policies, prioritizes the buying or leasing of energy efficient vehicles, equipment, and components. The strategy aims to optimize fuel performance, but always ensures that vehicles are selected that can complete the required task. Developing a strategy is straightforward and sets a direction for the entire fleet that ensures fuel efficiency is the key consideration. Experience shows that developing and implementing a fuel efficient vehicle purchasing strategy can lower fuel costs.

Fuel Data Management System

This is a powerful educational and management tool for achieving ongoing and increasingly effective GHG reductions from fleet operations. Developing a system to monitor and measure fuel consumption and vehicle performance on a continuous basis allows the local government to attribute fuel efficiency data to specific vehicles, departments, and drivers; evaluate the efficiency of individual green fleet efforts; determine next steps, and more. Fuel data management can done simply, by having drivers manually enter specific data into a database, or done extensively, by using any number of advanced computer applications designed to provide extensive real time performance data. A fuel data management system provides an unmatched foundation for developing other initiatives and can have a trickle down effect of GHG reductions for years to come.

Buildings: Community Wide

Promote Incentives

A local government can facilitate efficient building construction and retrofits through the promotion of third party incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy. These incentives would include Federal and Provincial energy efficiency grant programs and BC Hydro incentive programs. Promotional activities can also include educational information, for example, on how to make homes and businesses more efficient, green building rating programs (Built Green, LEED, others); and other sources of information on green and energy efficient buildings. See Third Party Incentives for more information.


A local government can develop a sustainability checklist for all development and building permit applicants to use. A checklist can be used primarily for information and encouragement purposes or can play a more important quasi-regulatory role in requiring certain levels of performance as a condition of development approval. Developing a sustainability checklist in coordination with other local governments in your region can reduce costs and ensure a level playing field for developers.

Buildings: Government Operations

Local Government Green Building Leadership

Local governments can make a commitment to making their own buildings more energy efficient through civic building retrofit and a new green buildings policy. Any local government that has committed to becoming carbon neutral will want to reduce emissions in order to minimize the cost of buying emission offsets. Investing in premium efficiency buildings, new and existing, can significantly improve a local government’s fiscal performance in the long run. Moreover, establishing premium efficiency buildings can build local capacity that is extended throughout the community.


Street and Traffic Light Retrofit

The energy consumption of traffic and street lighting can often be reduced significantly, quickly, and very cost effectively by retrofitting with new technology light sources. For example, LED lamps, now well established for traffic lighting, can potentially reduce energy and maintenance costs to a fraction of that required for conventional light sources. See Street Lighting for more information.

Green Infrastructure Policy for New Projects

Create a policy that sets out emissions-related objectives and targets for infrastructure projects. This policy can initially be based on a relatively simple set of objectives. Identify an infrastructure upgrade or replacement project that is planned for the immediate future – for example, building a new sewer lift station or replacing a major pump – and implement the policy within this project. See Green Infrastructure for more information.

Water Conservation Kits/Incentives

To start implementing water conservation in the community and thereby reducing the burden on water and wastewater infrastructure, a local government can provide water conservation kits and/or incentives for retrofitting old toilets with new, efficient ones. These measures can be complemented with educational packages. Kits can include low-cost parts such as faucet aerators and shower heads. See Water Conservation for more information.

Composting Bins

Encourage diversion of organic waste from landfills through promoting composting, possibly including the provision of backyard composters at a reduced price to residents. Composting is a viable option for most residents in small and rural communities as most have outdoor space. Good composting practice education is essential to prevent attracting wildlife. See Organics Management.


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