CANADA: University and city forge green alliance

Canada's University of British Columbia is working with the city of Vancouver to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage more sustainable community living across this coastal city - with potential to set an example for partnerships between other universities and cities around the world.

The university and city council have agreed to work on common goals in the areas of climate action, sustainability and green economics. They will both work to realise the city's Greenest City Action Plan, whose ambitious goal is making Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020, and UBC's Place and Promise Plan, which unites goals in student learning, research excellence and community engagement.

"It's an agreement to work on sustainability, innovation and solutions through a variety of different mechanisms," says Nancy Knight, Associate Vice- president of campus and community planning.

A major component of the project is a partnership between the city's urban forestry programme and UBC, where most of the city's wood waste will be deposited into the biomass facility on the UBC campus, fuelling biomass-based heat and power.

In this scenario the city is interested in learning lessons so that similar projects could be used in neighbourhoods throughout Vancouver, Knight says.

While UBC will not be receiving any direct form of financial profit from their partnership with Vancouver, Knight stresses that the collaboration is about learning from one another.

"Our campus can be a living laboratory for sustainable solutions that the city's interested in looking at," Knight says. "As [Vancouver] works on their Greenest City Action Planning implementation they'll be thinking about both integrating ideas from us and cool ideas that then we'll look out here as well."

The groups have already begun the wood waste project, as well as another initiative called the Greenest City Action Team Scholars programme which provides UBC grants to 10 graduate students who will work directly on Vancouver's greenest city plan.

At the end of this summer a committee will evaluate the current projects run by the partnership and discuss other possible projects and opportunities that UBC and the city may want to focus on in the future.

"The reputation and the capacity and the commitments of both organisations really bring a strong focus to sustainability," Knight says.

The partnership between UBC and the city of Vancouver is a multi-year partnership that could last for an entire decade.