Greenhouse Gas Reductions

The Issue

We have only to look at the last year on Bowen Island to see how human-caused climate change is affecting nature and the quality of our lives. Near-record snowfall in December, 2008; 30 plus degree C temperatures in the summer of 2009; and the rain deluge of this past November, are becoming the new norm. Experts say to expect more and worse.


Bowen Island has gone from being a leader to a laggard on climate change. In 2001, Bowen Island joined the Partners for Climate Protection program of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. In 2007, the municipal council set a target to reduce GHG to year 2000 levels by 2010. But then did nothing. Now, the Province is forcing action. Provincial law requires that by May 31, 2010, each BC municipality must include in its OCP a GHG reduction target and policies to achieve that goal.

The OCP residential build-out plan provides the structure upon which to construct a GHG reduction strategy. One can calculate residential GHG savings by comparing the amount of emissions that would be produced through a current OCP trajectory of the build-out, versus an energy-improved and village focused version of that same projection. The goal should be to achieve total GHG reductions even as development expands within the limits of the currently planned-for build-out.

There are those who advocate simply building greater numbers of energy efficient buildings, – while disregarding any long-term build-out plan, – and thereby claim that this is somehow reducing GHG emissions. In fact however, this reduces only the “intensity” of GHG, the amount produced “per unit”, while actually increasing the total GHG emissions. However much energy is conserved by smart growth practices, real GHG reductions can only be achieved by limiting the total amount of building density.

There are generally three aspects for an overall GHG reduction strategy:

  • Reducing ferry and automobile usage, especially single occupancy vehicles (SOV);
  • more energy efficient buildings;
  • better land use.



  • Create a new lane beside the existing ferry marshalling lanes above the cross roads in Snug Cove, and dedicate it entirely for advance loading of approved vehicles. Bowen Island municipality can choose eligibility for this advance-loading lane, including, registered car pools, hybrid and electric vehicles, high occupancy vehicles (HOV) and buses. (For a more thorough summary of our recommendations on transportation, see Snug Cove; transportation).

Energy efficient buildings:

  • Commit to fast tracking of building permit applications that voluntarily adhere to the municipality’s Green Building Checklist in Bylaw #65, 2002, for all aspects of construction and landscaping with native plants and trees.
  • Endorse in the OCP the use of density bonuses for re-zonings that will incorporate energy efficient elements in home construction, including tree retention and planting of native trees and shrubs.

Better Land Use:

  • The primary way to achieve GHG reduction through better land use in the updated OCP is by a redirection of the future residential building density that is currently anticipated in the existing OCP build-out. The OCP building potential that is currently allocated for lands outside of Snug Cove and Seymour Bay should be re-directed to occur within certain designated village or “hamlet” areas.

Because the Snug Cove Village Plan (SCVP), approved in 2005, already contains strong incentives for a more compact, energy efficient village, including density bonus incentives for transferring development rights (TDR) from rural parts of the island, Snug Cove should not be a receiver area for any additional density.

A shift in the planning focus of the OCP build-out into village or “hamlet” boundaries would need to be supported by an enhanced system of transferable development rights (TDR), dedicated to the same objective.

This land use strategy would ensure that Bowen Island achieves a substantial reduction in GHG while not adding any additional residential building density beyond that already anticipated in the current OCP. Such a shift in the build-out plan would also preserve greater areas of unfragmented forest than would the current OCP build-out, and would contribute to Bowen’s existing rural character.

However, this recommendation for a significant shift in the OCP build-out needs to be qualified. Concentrating future growth within village boundaries must continue to be constrained by a social consensus about desired community character. Single-minded pursuit of GHG reduction at the expense of all other considerations, leads ultimately to urban-style high rise apartment living. Soaking up all eligible density into a twenty storey apartment block would reduce GHG, but would also harm the community desire for human-scale low-rise living, in harmony with nature. (See Development Permits Areas – Village Revitalization; and see Snug Cove Village Plan).

  • A second avenue for better land use lies with new authority, granted by the Province to local governments in Bill 27, passed in 2008. Development permit areas are now empowered to require retention or planting of trees and native species of vegetation, in order to sequester GHG and to conserve water. For more, see Development Permit Areas- Watersheds and Streams).