The Green New Deal is already here, all around us. And it’s growing.
Three municipalities in Canada have already raised the bar on tackling the climate emergency with their own local Green New Deals.
Across Canada, the U.S., and UK, 15 communities — a combined population of over 31 million people — have begun implementing local Green New Deals. In many cases, these programs are a central part of plans for a just recovery from the pandemic.
These plans share in common a recognition of the climate crisis as an emergency and they all act accordingly with 2030 targets that centre climate science, justice, anti-racism, a just transition, and systemic change. Many of the local Green New Deals also institutionalize regular progress reports and accountability mechanisms.
Municipalities in Canada have control over 44 per cent of national emissions, so each new municipal Green New Deal reduces emissions while building momentum for provincial and federal Green New Deals.
This Earth Day, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada's new target is 40-45 per cent reductions by 2030, while the U.S. targets are now 52 per cent. While 40 per cent is a marginal improvement, it isn't nearly good enough. That's why we need Green New Deal Communities like these ones to push us even further into a transformed future.
Read on to learn more about the details of local Green New Deals in Canada.
Want to help build a Green New Deal where you live? You can get involved here.
Vancouver (Population 631,000)
In November 2020, Vancouver city council adopted a comprehensive climate justice plan that is a municipal Green New Deal in all but name.
Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan focuses on the two primary areas that account for most of the city’s emissions: buildings and transportation. It also addresses food, racism, historic oppression of marginalized communities, affordable housing (including developing plans to prevent energy retrofits being used as a pretext for renovictions), equity, public health, carbon budgeting and accountability, and Indigenous rights.
The plan commits that by 2030, “50% of the kilometres driven on Vancouver’s roads will be by zero emissions vehicles” and “carbon pollution from building operations will be cut in half from 2007 levels,” while prioritizing low-income, racialized, and otherwise marginalized communities for transit improvements.
The plan also commits to “collaborate with the xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓ íl̓ witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations on the development and implementation of climate plans” as well as funding local Indigenous nations’ own climate plans.
According to local climate organizers Avery Shannon and Naia Lee, who mobilized support for the initiative, “Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan specifically names that people made marginalized by society, such as disabled people and lower income folks, must be prioritized in climate action. The plan also emphasizes the city’s commitment to working with the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam Nations on the development and implementation of these measures. As uninvited people of colour on stolen, ancestral lands, we know that it is imperative for us to weave intersectionality and decolonization into all climate action.”
Halifax (Population 403,000)
In 2020, Halifax began implementing HalifACT 2050, which is “as much an economic development plan as a climate action plan.”
The plan includes expanding and electrifying public transit, active transportation infrastructure, net-zero emissions for new buildings, large scale renewables, a food action plan, a rooftop solar program, retrofitting existing buildings, decarbonized infrastructure, coastal preparedness, and “approximately 170,000 person years of employment generated between 2020 and 2050, an average of 5,500 annually.”
While the overall emissions reduction target for 2030 could be clearer, the plan recognizes the importance of sticking to a carbon budget (i.e. the absolute limit of cumulative emissions possible between now and 2050 to still stay within the Paris agreement / limit to 1.5 degrees warming), and of doing more, sooner.
Cumberland, B.C. (Population 3,700)
Cumberland council has adopted a local Green New Deal in principle, responding to efforts by two young local organizers, Ben Mason and Lister de Vitré, based on the organizing guide and sample resolutions published by the Council of Canadians.
Cumberland council has directed municipal staff to develop a report on how to implement a local Green New Deal that includes measures for cutting emissions in half by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050, as well as “green jobs, Indigenous rights, anti-racism and equity measures, housing, independence of elected officials, transit and transportation, energy, drinking water, wastewater and food security.”
According to local news reports, “the biggest target is reducing greenhouse emissions in half by 2030, with the aim of going net-zero by 2050 [and a cut of] 25 per cent by 2025.”
Building a Green New Deal in your community
Winning local Green New Deals doesn't happen in a vacuum. Years of grassroots organizing on multiple fronts have been creating the conditions for local Green New Deals to be winnable. And our work to win local Green New Deals can and should recognize, amplify, and help build connections between these various movements.
There are many communities that have already made strides toward the kind of transformation we need to tackle the crises of the climate, racism, precarious work, and inequality. They just need to be woven together.
There are now more than 1,900 local governments in 34 countries — including over 500 in Canada — that have declared a climate emergency. These communities are ripe for organizing to build their own local Green New Deals and the communities listed here are just the beginning.
We’re supporting community groups and Council of Canadians chapters from coast to coast in working to build many more local Green New Deals.
Want your community to be the next one to build a local Green New Deal? Get involved here.