The City of Victoria is banning the use of natural gas and fossil fuels in new buildings by 2025 in a bold move to accelerate the city's climate action plan.
Amidst raised concerns about climate change, Victoria's Council voted to enact new BC Building Code carbon pollution standards that will require all new construction be zero carbon by July 2025. This is about five years ahead of the anticipated provincial requirements, expected to be announced later this year.
“Buildings account for nearly half of all greenhouse gas pollution generated in the city,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Each new building will last more than 50 years so raising the bar now is critical to meeting our long-term climate goals, and to preparing the taxpayers of the future to have less climate-related costs down the road.”
After declaring a climate emergency in March 2019, Victoria is aiming to reduce its community greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. It estimates that the pending change to new buildings will remove up to 7% of those emissions.
"Victoria is one of the first municipalities in British Columbia to make all new construction zero carbon polluting and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels for water and space heating," a City of Victoria news release reads.
Although it's one of the first in BC, Victoria joins a growing list of cities both in Canada and around the world that are moving away from fossil fuel use in buildings. Earlier this year, Vancouver introduced new zero-emission requirements for all new and replacement heating and hot water systems by 2050. And across the entirety of Quebec, oil-powered heating has been banned in new projects since December 2021, and beginning in December 2023, existing furnaces cannot be replaced with a fossil-fuel-powered system.
Outside of Canada, New York City voted to ban fossil fuels in smaller new buildings by 2023 and in taller builds by 2027. Even Norway, the largest fossil fuel producer in Western Europe, has implemented fossil fuel and emission bans on new construction in seven major cities.
Although Victoria city staff saw general agreement from the more than 150 builders, developers, architects, engineers, and energy advisors consulted to focus on reducing green house gas emissions, some logistical concerns were raised about switching to renewable energy.
"The most common challenges identified for all building types included concerns about the availability of appropriate equipment, incremental cost increases, design challenges, availability of appropriate expertise and lack of consumer demand for energy efficient buildings," a staff report reads.
But ultimately, the City decided to move forward with the new regulations.
Buildings are just one of the industries Victoria is looking to revamp and drive down emissions. The City is also planning changes to municipal operations, waste, and mobility sectors.