Understanding the City of Vancouver’s new carbon pollution limits  

In response to the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, Vancouver City Council approved recommendations this past May to introduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission regulations for existing large commercial and retail buildings. The regulations include GHG intensity (GHGi) limits and heat energy limits, as well as annual energy and carbon reporting requirements.

The GHG emissions and heating energy limits for these building types will require owners and energy utilities to plan for deep carbon retrofits and investments in alternative energy sources. Key highlights:

  • The energy and carbon reporting requirements come into effect in 2024.
  • The GHGi limits come into effect in 2026, with a proposed $350/tonne CO2e fee for emissions that exceed the limit.
  • The heating energy limits come into effect in 2040, with a proposed $100/gigajoule fee for heating energy that exceeds the limit.

Other regions and cities, including Metro Vancouver, are now also considering following suit and introducing GHGi and heating energy limits for their regions.

Although the limits are a positive step towards decarbonizing the building sector, much work remains to be done to make these buildings comply with the regulations. Currently, many buildings do not meet the limits stipulated in the bylaw. According to PUMA’s 2021 office building benchmarking report only 10 per cent  of buildings within the dataset currently fall within 2040 heat energy limits, 80 per cent fall within the 2026 GHGi limits, and 2 per cent fall within the 2040 GHGi net-zero limits. Although 2026 and 2040 may seem like the distant future, retrofitting buildings to achieve the deep reductions targeted takes several years, effort and cost. Getting an early start on this work is critically important.

The good news is that help is available. Several programs can be leveraged to support the transition to lower GHGi and heating energy in existing buildings.

Interested in finding out more about these new regulations and what they mean for your buildings?

Feel free to reach out to us — we’d be happy to chat. Contact Iram Green, Energy Team Lead, at iram@prismgengineering.com.