Greenhouse Canada

Inside View: Bigger picture context

March 11, 2024  By Gary Jones

You know when life sometimes gets just a little too busy? Those days, weeks, when it seems you can’t get your head above water, and you get so absorbed in your own world that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re someone who performs better under some stress. And it’s good to focus on maintaining and developing your business.

But sometimes, it’s just as important to step back and find opportunities to take a higher-level view of what’s going on in other industries. To get context.

The greenhouse industry faces a number of external pressing issues at the moment, as we’ve seen in ‘Inside View’ over the past months: prices, labour, pests/disease management, and water for example. Another key issue is societal pressure to wean us off carbon-based fuels, and when our heads are down in the day-to-day graft of growing, it’s easy to feel we’re being singled out.


Enter the ‘CityAge Vancouver: The Urban Zero Challenge’ conference. Out of my usual space, I found myself at posh tables with property developers, health authority managers and transit planners. But it was an opportunity to see how other major areas of society are viewing the environmental de-carbonisation issue. What could we learn?

Pre-event material posited, “Vancouver — like every city in Canada — is facing two key challenges: We must get to net zero emissions while meeting the housing and transportation needs of a country seeing record population growth? 1 For discussion:

“Decarbonizing Cities: The huge economic opportunity in promoting clean technologies that can build low carbon cities.

Zero Emission Buildings: New tools to accelerate the decarbonization of embodied carbon in existing buildings, as well as build more low- or zero-emission buildings.

Zero Emission Transportation: From personal vehicle charging infrastructure through medium and heavy duty applications in ports, freight and airports, we’ll look at the move to electrification and innovations in land, rail, sea and air.” 1 Learning opportunities, surely.

Submitted alongside the conference was a market research report: “Public Attitudes to Decarbonization of Metro Vancouver: The Urban Zero Challenge Conference.” The Executive Summary reports that [for public perception] “Jobs and the economy, and creating more supply of housing are the most important issues in the next 10 years for Metro Vancouver residents, which likely speaks to concerns about affordability in the region. Decarbonization ranks third most important of the five issues measured, behind economic and housing concerns. Residents rate their concern about greenhouse gas emissions in Metro Vancouver an average of 6.3 on a scale where 10 means ‘extremely concerned’. But they are less concerned about their own footprint”… “Industry is believed to be the top carbon emitter in Metro Vancouver, followed by private vehicles and commercial transportation. Smart technology, industry incentives, solar power and alternative transportation modes are viewed as the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Key Findings rated as least effective are carbon offsets, carbon taxes, and using wood instead of concrete for building construction.” 2

Key take-aways:

  1. City planners, transport managers, health-care managers, and others in Metro Vancouver are taking the zero-carbon need to heart. Whatever the motive, it’s a pressing problem they’re looking to solve. Do we have that same urgency?
  2. When it comes to decarbonising, most solutions seem to be “electrify.” Great, if your electricity is generated using eco-friendly options, but even then, only if there is sufficient supply. We know that this is not the case in B.C., even with existing demand: a few extra-cold days in January nearly broke the system. And of course, electricity (instead of natural gas) doesn’t provide CO2 for our plants.

No-one has an easy fix to the zero-carbon energy issue for greenhouses. No surprise there, but I hope Government recognizes this and can help us with some carrots and grace, not just with sticks.

It does no harm to keep looking with an open mind to what’s going on out there. Conferences that are off our normal beaten track can help re-focus and bring context to the issues we collectively face. 

  2. Mustel Market Research, ‘Public Attitudes to Decarbonization of Metro Vancouver’ The Urban Zero Challenge Conference February 6, 2024

Gary Jones sits on several greenhouse industry committees in BC and welcomes comments at  

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