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Metro Vancouver considers sustainable action options

Should Metro Vancouver have elected positions?

That's a question Michael Goldberg, dean of UBC's Sauder School of Business, posed to the delegates at the region's first sustainability summit last week in Vancouver.

People from councils, advocacy groups and businesses across the greater Vancouver area attended the summit to vote on a list of actions that Metro Vancouver council will pursue over the next three years.

Clear targets for waste reduction, incentives for green buildings and improved inter-regional transportation: these were just a few of the actions that garnered most support.

"These really are motherhood statements," opined one delegate at my table, a description that was repeated by others later on. So, how can Metro Vancouver as a region realize these feel-good ambitions -- especially when board members are there representing their own communities?

Take waste management, for example.

Metro Vancouver is responsible for handling solid and liquid waste in the region, and already has a target to divert 70 per cent of its solid waste from landfills by 2015.

Its board supports a ban on plastic bags, but it can't issue a regional-wide ban, said Metro Vancouver's waste management chair Marvin Hunt, and is instead asking the province to work on it.

And, although a proposed landfill in Logan Lake "doesn't fit" with the region's landfill diversion strategy, said Hunt, "it might be part of a temporary solution."

The region's proposed waste-to-energy facilities are another tactic in its strategy to achieve 70 per cent diversion -- one that has been contentious in Fraser valley communities that are concerned about emissions associated with the technology.

"Most of the issues discussed were regional, or have strong regional implications. We should perhaps have some conversation about governance," said Goldberg.

"Direct election makes more sense," he said.

Ken Bennett, a sustainable community development officer with the District of North Vancouver, said he thinks the region should have extended responsibility in certain areas, like waste.

"The vast majority of our waste stream is construction waste and unrecyclable plastic," said Bennett. "That's where the region and the province could play a role with producer regulations."

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