To make good on the “whole-of-Canada” approach in its climate strategies, the federal government must plug in to the inspiring work being done by community organizations to foster resilient and just cities, say two experts in front-line climate action.
Communities across Canada are rich in grassroots efforts to build and nurture resilience and equity, and Ottawa needs to take note, listen, and collaborate, write Cameron Esler, organizer and educator with the David Suzuki Foundation, and Laura Schnurr, director of community climate transitions at the Tamarack Institute, in a recent op-ed in The Hill Times.
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“We need more collaboration between residents and governments, so that residents’ lived experiences inform how we mitigate and adapt to climate change,” they argue, in counterpoint to the “top-down” approach Ottawa has traditionally taken when creating climate action strategies.
This year’s federal budget seemed to double down on that tendency, Esler and Schnurr say. By focusing on large, corporate actors, Ottawa “took a step back from the whole-of-Canada approach promoted in its own strategies,” particularly the National Adaptation Strategy and Canada’s 2030 Agenda National Strategy.
But community-driven efforts to build a sustainable future can still “provide the blueprint” for Ottawa to walk its talk on collective, community-centred climate action.
Canadian youth have been particularly active, the authors add. In Regina, young people collaborated with adult environmentalists, business leaders, refugee and immigration organizations, and women’s groups, working with the city to create an energy and sustainability framework for equity and economic opportunity. Accessible transit was a central pillar of the framework.
Youth also played an important role in Edmonton’s efforts “to persuade the city to move forward with a carbon budget [and] fund a bike network,” doing everything from painting murals to meeting with the mayor and councillors.
City councillors, in turn, have “convened community-based budgeting conversations focused on hyper-local solutions, resilience, social connection, and ecological transition,” resulting in “multiple incredible neighbourhood projects with strong participation from equity-seeking groups.”
Exciting and meaningful grassroots effort to “accelerate decarbonization and strengthen resilience through a whole-of-society approach” are going on in several other places in Canada, they write—from big cities like Montreal and Halifax, to smaller cities like Collingwood, Ontario, to tiny, rural communities like those on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.