A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. Road vehicles remain the region’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, according to the Capital Regional District’s greenhouse gas inventory for 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)

A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. Road vehicles remain the region’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, according to the Capital Regional District’s greenhouse gas inventory for 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)

Road vehicles drove Capital Region’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions, despite COVID-19 impacts

Building emissions, the region’s second-highest source, on the rise

Not even the pandemic’s impact on local travel patterns could stop transportation from being the Capital Regional District’s top greenhouse gas (GHG) emission source in 2020.

The CRD released its greenhouse gas inventory for 2020 – with an acknowledgment of the COVID-19 caveat – earlier this month.

The region emitted 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 that year, which represented a 9.8-per-cent reduction from 2007 levels and a five-per-cent drop from 2018. That swift two-year cut was the result of a sudden dropoff in transportation emissions early in the pandemic, an inventory analysis said. Regardless, the CRD came far short of its goal to lower emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.

Despite the pandemic’s effect, road vehicles were still the region’s largest emission source, but drivers accounted for 21 per cent less CO2 output in 2020 than they did 13 years before.

But it’s the region’s next highest emitter, buildings, that may be even more problematic for the region’s goals. Emissions coming from buildings were eight per cent higher in 2020 than in 2018.

Emissions from natural gas use in commercial and industrial buildings were about four times greater than those coming from electricity use in those structures. Natural gas and heating oil accounted for two-thirds of the total emissions from residential buildings, with 20 per cent coming from electricity use. The analysis said the Capital Region has rapidly increased its use of gas appliances over the last decade.

READ: Study suggests climate change made B.C. floods at least twice as likely

READ: Climate change made B.C., Alberta heat wave 150 times more likely, study concludes

Despite significant population growth, the CRD and individual municipalities taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint have led to a 24-per-cent drop in per capita emissions between 2007 and 2020, the inventory analysis said.

However, it added that more action is needed if the region wants to meet its 2038 target of reducing emissions by 61 per cent from 2007 levels.

The only CRD municipalities to see GHG concentrations rise between 2007 and 2020 were Langford, Highlands, Sooke, View Royal and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. Among those jurisdictions, Highlands was the only one that didn’t see per capita emissions fall.

Langford’s overall emissions grew by 22.5 per cent between 2007 and 2020 as its population more than doubled during that period. By comparison, the municipality of Victoria’s population has grown 17 per cent in that timeframe, but its emissions were 15 per cent lower in 2020 compared to 2007.

The CRD declared a climate emergency in 2019, with officials at the time saying it was time to stop debating about the house being on fire and throw some water on it instead. In 2021, climate change increased the likelihood of B.C.’s deadly heatwaves and devastating rains.

READ: B.C. heat dome contributed to higher-than-average deaths this year, says StatsCan

READ: Langford tops population growth in B.C., third-fastest in Canada: 2021 census


jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
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