This article examines Vancouver’s efforts to be the greenest city in North America – one without gas-powered cars – by 2050 and explores some of the challenges facing the city in its efforts to reach that goal.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, technologies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are the main challenges to overcome?
  • Why is it that these objectives are feasible for Vancouver?
  • Could other cities follow suit?

New Terminology:

Renewable energy, hybrid vehicles

Materials Needed:

No specific requirements

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

With the COP 212 meeting taking place in Paris and Canada’s dramatically different commitment going into the talks, there is an increased focus on climate change and the issues surrounding it. With this as backdrop, Vancouver’s announced intention of becoming the greenest city in North America by 2050 has garnered attention. Vancouver has long touted its reputation for liveability and this objective helps to reinforce that perception. This goal, however, will not just happen. Attention will have to be given to such things as transportation, renovations, energy-efficiency and public support. Experts agree, nevertheless, when they say that this goal is certainly a realistic one for Vancouver. This lesson will have the students examine Vancouver’s intentions and suggested actions and then to ask, “If this can happen in Vancouver, why can’t it happen in my city or town?”.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they know what COP 21 is.
  • Get their responses and ensure that they understand that the primary goal of this conference is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below a 2°C increase. (Cop 21)
  • Ask them to explain how, with our new federal Government and its refreshing commitment to actively address climate change, Canada’s role is likely to be different at this conference.
  • Ask them if they think there has been a change in the country’s attitude toward the necessity to take action to address climate change.
  • Once you have their responses ask them if they think that it is possible for a city to become solely reliant on renewable energy, including methods of transportation such as public transit and cars.
  • Get their responses and then indicate to them that Vancouver has this as a stated objective by 2050. Give them a copy of the article to read.
  • Allow them time to read the article and then get their reactions to it.
  • With this discussion concluded, ask them if they think it could happen in their city or location.
  • Get their responses, including the reasons for their position.
  •  At this stage, divide the class into five groups and assign one of the following areas to each group:

What ideas or plans would you put in place in the following areas to accomplish a 100% renewable energy-based city by the year 2050?:

      1. Renovations
      2. Transportation
      3. New real estate developments
      4. Taxes
      5. Publicity campaign to gain public support
  • Allow the groups time to complete the task, reserving enough class time to allow for each of the groups to report their findings.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each group report to the class and answer any questions.


Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Identify the goal of the COP 21 conference in Paris
  • Outline some ideas that cities or towns could employ to become more reliant on renewable energy.

Confirming Activity:

  • As a concluding activity, assign the following writing assignment:

I believe that Vancouver, will (or will not) be successful in accomplishing its goal of being totally reliant on renewable energy by 2050. (Give specific reasons for your answer.)