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Vancouver to strut its stuff in Copenhagen

Promoting Vancouver's climate leadership in the shadow of the federal government's dismal reputation in Copenhagen will be a "touchy situation," said Mayor Gregor Robertson at a press conference today.

"The lack of commitment today from the federal government is troubling and does make it more difficult for Vancouver to get our message across," said Robertson. The mayor leaves tomorrow to attend a summit for mayors at the international climate change conference, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for his government's position on greenhouse gas emissions. Canada has set reduction targets significantly below those of other developed nations.

Vancouver has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 11 per cent since 2000. Robertson acknowledged that this city has an advantage over others because its energy supply is primarily hydroelectric and it isn't home to heavily polluting industries and said "we've had to look at all different pockets to get that reduction."

The city has signed a memorandum of understanding with BC Hydro to tackle several initiatives, including renewable district energy systems, a charging network for electric vehicles and financing tools to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency. Buildings comprise one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. Bev Van Ruyven, executive vice-president of customer care and conservation, said BC Hydro was still developing the financial tool that would help finance these retrofits.

Vancouver is also working with Pulse Energy to improve efficiencies in eight city-owned buildings, including the central library branch and city hall campus. Pulse Energy is a tech company that makes software systems that monitor energy use in buildings, and alert building managers to problems or inefficiencies. Co-founder David Helliwell said this can result in energy savings of 10 to 20 per cent. Working with Vancouver has given his company good visibility, he said.

"We're starting to get phone calls from other cities," Helliwell said. "People watch what happens in Vancouver."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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