Vancouver – Canada

Although famously one of the world’s most liveable cities, Vancouver is also one of the world’s least affordable. Economic growth in Vancouver, like the rest of the country, remained relatively stable throughout the global financial crisis. British Columbia has implemented a relatively progressive combined carbon tax-cap and trade regime, with the aim of leading the shift to a green economy in North America. This said, Vancouver’s reputation as one of he world’s most liveable cities is also partly built upon City Hall’s efforts to measure, assess and set targets for monitoring progress towards sustainable development objectives. The 2009/10 Greenest City Action Plan establishes ten such goals in relation to issues such as air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change effects, water quality and supply, land use, transportation, housing, jobs, health care and waste treatment.

Vancouver is a coastal city located on the lower mainland of the province of British Columbia, Canada. With a population of 2.1 million, Vancouver is the largest metropolitan area in western Canada. Efforts to incorporate eco-density town planning have meant that Downtown Vancouver is a relatively green urban centre. Stanley Park to the northwest, the mountains above North Vancouver, and the campuses of UBC to the west and SFU to the east provide large open spaces on the metro-regions’ fringes.

The region was a key location in the North–South trading routes of indigenous societies for at least ten thousand years; throughout the nineteenth century Vancouver denoted one geographical extreme of the British Empire; and in the twentieth century the city was marked by its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and Canada’s southern border with the United States. In the twenty-first century Vancouver’s geographical location within the Pacific Northwest region (which also encompasses the neighbouring city-regions of Seattle and Portland) and its proximity to North Asia both exert an important influence on city life.

Many of the problems faced by Vancouver today can be seen as problems of modernization and globalization. However, the specifics of space and place, sociality and cultural forms, mean that the society that is Vancouver deals with these in particular ways. The Winter Olympics, hosted by Vancouver in 2010, were held up by some as a chance for the city to more firmly fix its place in globalizing urban society as a city that is both liveable and sustainable for all residents. The products of that event are yet to be fully assessed.

The work of the Global Cities Institute in Vancouver is lead by Andy Scerri. Global Cities is collaborating with the Simon Fraser University in developing a major project linked to the UN Global Compact Cities Programme (see below under ‘Partnerships’) on the ‘Circles of Sustainability’ method for developing social indicators. The method is being piloted in the city concurrently with research being conducted in Melbourne.

Accounting for sustainability: developing an integrated approach for sustainability assessments

This is a cross-disciplinary project involving social science and computer science. It aims to develop a new approach to sustainability in our cities and organizations.

Community sustainability indicators

Community sustainability indicators; citizen engagement; software decision-support tool.