Climate Action and Energy

Chapter 10

What it’s about

Confirming the community’s belief that climate change is real, that reducing GHG emissions is beneficial to our broader well-being and that governments should act promptly to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

Across Whistler, residents and businesses are using less energy and are producing fewer emissions, while still enjoying enduring success as a resort community. Whistler has effectively decoupled energy consumption from economic progress and continues to thrive, becoming a richer, healthier, lower-carbon society.

Whistler has committed to energy conservation as a core strategy for achieving its climate change mitigation commitments. While maintaining tourism as its primary economic engine, the resort community has taken a leadership position in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger vehicle transportation, commercial fleets, transit, and residential and commercial buildings, as well as municipal and community infrastructure. Through this leadership, community GHG reduction and community energy consumption targets have been met. Whistler has concentrated development within the area bounded by Function Junction in the south and Emerald Estates in the north, using existing infrastructure systems and avoiding the negative traffic and GHG emission impacts characteristic of a more spread out development pattern. Use of preferred modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling and public transit, has increased considerably, leading to greater use of the Valley Trail network as well as reduced single occupant vehicle use.

Small-scale, renewable energy production has become prominent across the community with cost-effective rooftop solar technologies making up the fastest growing share. Green building techniques, such as Passivhaus construction methods and net-zero energy buildings, as well as energy-sharing solutions like district energy systems, have collectively reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions—while proving cost-effective.

Whistler has also recognized that despite our best efforts, the climate is unfortunately changing—and with these changes comes the need to strategically adapt. Ongoing risk and vulnerability assessments for all key social, economic and environmental systems have become core to informed planning and decision-making, and collectively now shape the way that the community manages risk and prepares for its ongoing prosperity and well-being. Careful planning across the municipality and other community stakeholders has ensured that Whistler’s infrastructure, natural environment and socio-economic systems have become increasingly resilient to a changing climate. In particular, the key risks posed by the threat of wildfire have been significantly reduced, and as a result the community has increased resiliency to forecasted longer, hotter and drier summers.

The simultaneously high quality and low-carbon visitor experience in Whistler continues to set the resort apart from other destinations. This approach has helped ensure success as a world-class resort community, while decreasing the emissions associated with traditional tourism patterns and infrastructure, limiting energy cost escalation to local businesses and residents, and protecting key community assets.

As a mountain town, Whistler has long been concerned about climate change. The community has a special dependence on weather patterns that deliver sufficient snowfall throughout the winter season. This intrinsic relationship to the weather has heightened awareness about Whistler’s shared responsibility to manage our GHG emissions—and the potential impacts if we do not.

The municipality is a signatory of the BC Climate Action Charter and has committed to a 33 per cent reduction in community-wide GHG emissions by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050 and 90 per cent by 2060. In 2016, the primary source of our community GHGs was passenger vehicles (56 per cent), followed by commercial natural gas use (24 per cent) and residential natural gas use (10 per cent).

From 2008 to 2012, the community managed to remain on pace towards its GHG reduction targets, averaging annual reductions of approximately four per cent per year—however, the 2014, 2015 and 2016 community results indicate that Whistler is no longer on pace to meet the community’s 2020 target GHG reduction level. These three most recent years averaged a five per cent increase in total emissions per year and have significantly moderated total GHG reductions from 21 per cent in 2013 to now only 9 per cent versus 2007 levels.

However, during this period resort community visitation grew by over 500,000 annual visitors. Consequently, from a GHG emissions intensity perspective, the estimated 2016 GHG emissions per population equivalent decreased year over year by more than five per cent to a new low of 3.6 tCO2e/PE.

Rather than community-led conservation gains, historic reductions have been achieved primarily as a result of significant infrastructure projects (pipeline conversion, landfill management and increased organics recycling) and to a lesser extent lower carbon fuel sources (lower carbon BC Hydro electricity and provincial low-carbon mobile fuel standards).

To achieve the OCP’s 2020 GHG target, annual reductions of approximately 8,000 tonnes of CO2e would be required for each year between 2016 and 2020 (or approximately a 6.5 per cent reduction each year). Unfortunately, this level of reduction is very unlikely and the community’s existing 2020 GHG emission reduction target will not be achieved.

Total community energy consumption in 2016 was estimated to be 3.2 million GJ (up approximately 3 per cent from 2007 levels and up 5.5 per cent year over year). Electricity is the most prevalent type of energy consumed in Whistler at 41 per cent of the total consumption, followed by vehicle fuels (~34 per cent) and natural gas at 25 per cent of total consumption.

The estimated 2016 annual collective energy expenditure within Whistler has increased by more than $33 million since 2000 ($82 million versus $49 million per year). 2016 energy expenditures for residential buildings total approximately $21 million per year, with commercial building expenditures totaling approximately $22 million on an annual basis. Passenger vehicles and fleets make up the remainder. Ongoing updates to energy consumption and emissions inventories are annually compiled, presented to Council, shared with staff and available to the community on

There are, however, many signs that the resort community is taking energy efficiency and climate protection seriously. Private sector initiatives have included Whistler’s first net-zero home, Whistler Blackcomb’s Epic Promise initiative, increases in Passivhaus-certified residential construction across the community, many other innovative green building and highly energy-efficient projects, increasing residential uptake of home energy improvement grants, as well as over 1,000 local registrations in BC Hydro’s residential Team Power Smart program. In addition, an increasing number of local businesses have integrated energy and emission inventories into their quality assurance and operational management systems.

Public sector leadership has included: the development of the 2016 Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), which includes a substantive new section on climate change adaptation goals, likely impacts, objectives and key recommended initiatives; new Passivhaus-certified community buildings, one at Lost Lake as well as a planned employee housing apartment building in the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood; an innovative alternative energy-based district energy system; LEED-certified public buildings; and substantial energy efficiency upgrades to Meadow Park Sports Centre. Other large-scale emission reduction projects include the cap-and-capture of landfill methane, an in-vessel organics recycling facility, and work supporting the 2008 propane to natural gas conversion and community pipeline installation project.

Finally, detailed local climate modelling indicates that a changing global climate is likely to bring three key changes to the Whistler area. These key changes are: (1) an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rain events; (2) longer, hotter and drier summers; and (3) milder winters with increased precipitation falling as rain near the valley bottom. Effectively managing the community’s response to these changes through informed vulnerability and risk analyses is core to ensuring long-term success and resilience of the community and the resort and is well-integrated at a detailed level within the 2016 CECAP.

Click the ‘Objectives & Policies’ to display additional content.

10.1. Goal Municipal decision-making is well-structured to achieve energy efficiency goals and GHG reduction targets.

10.1.1. Objective

Leverage community-level GHG reduction targets to track and motivate action. Policy

Lead a community-wide effort to reduce total community GHG emissions to a level that is 33 per cent lower than 2007 levels by 2020, 80 per cent lower than 2007 levels by 2050 and 90 per cent lower than 2007 levels by 2060. Policy

Lead a community-wide effort to reduce total energy consumption to a level that is 10 per cent lower than 2007 levels by 2020. Policy

Lead a community-wide effort to derive 100 per cent of the energy used in Whistler from renewable sources by 2060. Policy

Monitor and report annually on both community-wide and corporate energy and GHG emission performance. Policy

Respect the resort community’s adopted GHG reduction target when evaluating changes to development and land use patterns. Policy

Advance the implementation of the CECAP and ensure it is updated regularly.

10.1.2. Objective

Support community-based social marketing and outreach programs that seek to change behaviours toward activities that reduce personal energy use and decrease our collective GHG emissions. Policy

Actively promote awareness of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the importance of energy efficiency through community outreach and programs that target personal energy and emission reduction opportunities.

10.2. Goal Substantially reduce GHG emissions from vehicles and transportation.

10.2.1. Objective

Treat land use as a primary determinant of transportation-based energy use. Policy

Adhere to the Whistler Urban Development Containment Area (WUDCA) as a means of reducing automobile trip distances. Policy

Require proposals for significant new development, or significant redevelopment, to quantify future GHG emissions and energy consumption (including transportation-based) and incorporate measures to minimize or mitigate projected increases. Policy

Advance the extended application of residential infill policies as a means of reducing transportation-related GHG emissions. Policy

To reduce commuting emissions, investigate opportunities to include live-work use designations within existing zones where this inclusion would not have adverse impacts on the neighbourhood’s character. Policy

Concentrate new development or significant redevelopment within or adjacent to existing settled areas that are well-served by transit, pedestrian and cycling routes, amenities and services. Policy

Explore opportunities to reduce regional transportation emissions by supporting appropriate opportunities for increasing local and regional food production.

10.2.2. Objective

Prioritize infrastructure development and policies that support seamless, convenient and affordable access to preferred modes of transportation for intra-community travel. Policy

Use every reasonable opportunity to further the use of preferred modes of transportation. Policy

Continue to support transportation demand management strategies that pass the infrastructure, servicing, environmental and land use opportunity costs of parking onto parking users. Policy

Increase year-round connections for active transportation modes throughout the community—especially in areas near convenience services. Policy

Where possible, prioritize the flow of high occupancy vehicles on local roadways and Highway 99, including the development of a Regional BC Transit Service for the Sea to Sky corridor.

10.2.3. Objective

Increase integration of lower-impact technologies for community mobility.

Text Box: The reduction of energy use and GHG emissions produced by passenger vehicle travel patterns will require both fewer ‘vehicle-kilometres-travelled’ across the community, as well as fewer GHG emissions per kilometre travelled. Both strategies will be required to achieve our community targets for GHG reduction. Policy

Integrate support for electric vehicle charging infrastructure into relevant municipal development policies, including electric vehicle-readiness requirements for parking areas and garages in new, or significant redevelopment, projects. Policy

Where it does not result in an overall increase in GHG emissions, support the development of, and increased access to, reduced-carbon mobile fuel options such as natural gas, appropriate biofuels and electricity, in both public and private sector applications. Policy

Encourage commercial recreation and leisure operators to minimize the GHG emissions associated with their activities.

10.3. Goal Substantially reduce GHG emissions from buildings and infrastructure.

10.3.1. Objective

Make energy conservation and energy efficiency initiatives the core strategy and highest priority for achieving our GHG emission reduction goals.

Text Box: Emissions from stationary sources include emissions from commercial and residential buildings, and key municipal and community infrastructure. Stationary sources in Whistler (primarily buildings) represent approximately 65 per cent of total community energy use and 40 per cent of GHG emissions. Increasing the energy performance of local buildings is an important opportunity for reducing community-wide emissions and energy consumption. Policy

Maintain, update and apply the Green Building Policy to reflect leading practices in energy efficiency and local government jurisdiction, including a broad, progressive integration of the BC Energy Step Code. Policy

Work with partners in the private and public sector to increase uptake of provincial, federal and utility-based building energy retrofit programs. Policy

Advance regulatory approaches that reduce or prohibit the negative climate impacts associated with the direct heating and cooling of outdoor areas, such as gas fire pits, patio heaters, heated residential driveways and open shop doors, during the heating or cooling seasons. Policy

Incorporate leading levels of energy efficiency into all new capital projects, expansions and retrofits related to civic buildings and infrastructure.

10.3.2. Objective

Create an incentive structure to encourage energy-efficient, low-carbon construction, renovation and development practices. Policy

Create and deploy incentives to facilitate upgrades of existing infrastructure and buildings that meaningfully improve energy efficiency. Policy

Work to structure municipal fees and charges on development to reflect energy efficiency and lower-environmental-impact development.

10.3.3. Objective

Evaluate additional opportunities for low-carbon, district-based energy systems. Policy

After energy conservation and efficiency measures have been optimized, and where sufficient demand exists, the municipality supports the exploration and potential development of district heating and cooling systems that are designed to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency, stabilize end-user energy costs and increase the share of total energy requirements met by renewable energy sources. Policy

Catalogue and develop strategies to maximize reuse of waste heat resources across the resort community. Policy

Where sufficient demand exists, support the development of low-carbon district heating and cooling systems that increase energy efficiency, increase the share of energy production from renewable sources, reduce operating costs and decrease GHG emissions.

Text Box: Increasing the renewable energy share in Whistler is an important strategy for reducing the consumption of higher carbon fuel sources (especially fossil fuels).

10.3.4. Objective

Support a mix of local and regional renewable energy production that includes a careful assessment of potential negative impacts on ecosystem function, air quality, community character and visual aesthetics. Policy

Encourage increased energy self-sufficiency and lower carbon operations through on-site renewable energy generation opportunities for existing and new buildings. Policy

Support provincial building code extensions and other regulatory and incentive tools that maximize the extent that local building regulation can require or support renewable energy systems in local development and construction. Policy

Support local and regional renewable electricity production opportunities consistent with Objective 10.3.4.

10.4. Goal Substantially reduce GHG emissions associated with solid waste management.

10.4.1. Objective

Continue to develop policies, practices and targets designed to help Whistler meet its zero waste goal. Policy

Develop, expand and promote programs and infrastructure that increase local recycling diversion rates, especially of organics, and encourage the reduction and reuse of products and materials. Policy

Ensure that price signals expressed through tipping fees are structured to motivate the diversion of compostables from the municipal waste stream.

10.5. Goal Increase the resilience of Whistler’s infrastructure, natural environment and socio-economic assets from the potential impacts of a changing climate.

10.5.1. Objective

Ensure that climate change adaptation planning is integrated in community decision-making.

Text Box: Adapting to climate change is a new, inevitable reality, particularly in mountain resort communities. Despite genuine efforts to mitigate climate change, leading scientists tell us that a changing climate is inevitable and we can expect increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent storms. As such, while continuing to advance meaningful mitigation initiatives, communities now must also advance strategic and informed adaptation planning and related projects.

Failure to strategically evaluate and act upon both of these issues could substantially and unnecessarily increase the vulnerability of the Whistler community in general, and its primary economic engine—tourism—in particular. Policy

Acknowledge that British Columbia’s climate is changing and share the best locally available climate impact modelling with the community to support ongoing informed adaptation planning. Policy

Continue to pursue strategic adaptation planning that regularly assesses the potential impacts of climate change, carbon pricing and rising fuel costs on Whistler’s tourism economy. Policy

Ensure that strategic directions related to climate change risk management and climate change adaptation objectives are routinely considered in decision-making processes and well-integrated with the CECAP. Policy

Designate a Development Permit Area for Wildfire Protection (see Chapter 13: Development Permit Areas, Wildfire Protection). Policy

Work with local and provincial agencies to prepare for and respond to emergencies caused by extreme weather events and ensure that the best available climate forecasts are integrated into hazard assessment, planning, mitigation, response and recovery activities. Policy

Actively share, practice and update strategic emergency plans and processes especially as related to those risks that are elevated by a changing climate.

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