CEA staff such as Sam Sedlowsky have the fortune of doing something that very few local government staff do: work full-time on local climate action. It’s what every CEA employee does. This fact, along with the diverse perspectives that CEA staff have as a result of where they live, their education, and their specializations, gives CEA staff a unique sense of what’s critical for local climate action, right now.
At the beginning of 2023, they were asked to answer this question:
“What do you think is the most important climate-related topic or action for municipalities, regional districts, and Indigenous governments in 2023?”
From nearly 20 suggestions, staff then voted for the topics they thought were most important. Three clearly emerged with the most votes.
Actively demonstrating the multiple co-benefits related to health, the economy, affordability, and social participation and inclusion that can occur while reducing local greenhouse gas emissions.
Katherine Pearce, Climate Collaboration Coordinator
"Highlighting these co-benefits first, and climate mitigation as a secondary benefit, can bring people along who may not otherwise view themselves as advocates for climate action,” says Katherine Pearce, who lives in Nanaimo and is CEA’s Climate Collaborations Coordinator. “By talking about clean air, a healthy community, safety and affordability, etc, local governments can bring more people on board and speak to shared values."
Katherine and Sam Sedlowsky, CEA’s Network Activation Specialist in Fernie, suggested this topic. For Katherine, the reason stems from her long-standing interest in connecting sustainability to the livability of communities. For Sam, co-benefits represent the pathway to success. “Demonstrating co-benefits attracts more partners and ultimately more resources because everyone can find common ground,” she says. Examples include the health authority that promotes walking or biking to school to make kids more active, the home that’s more energy-efficient to reduce operating costs, or the push to grow healthy, local food – all of them just also happen to reduce carbon pollution and are good for the climate.
Sam Sedlowsky, Network Activation Specialist
Enhancing the local impact of climate action by collaborating among local governments and Indigenous communities within a region and/or on a particular topic.
Maya Chorobik, Director of Climate Leadership
To say this was a topic casually suggested by Maya Chorobik is the understatement of the year. For CEA’s Director of Climate Leadership and head of the Capacity and Leadership Development Service Area, it’s everything. “There are a lot of people working on climate solutions in individual communities, but they’re often doing so in isolation. Bringing them together can lead to more implementation, and ultimately more impact.”
Evidence can be seen among the flourishing networks that are facilitated by CEA on various topics and in different regions around BC, as well as a new elected officials network in Alberta. On Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, a visionary network of elected officials has recently been paired with a staff network that brings practicality and commitment to implementation. In the Thompson-Okanagan, a network less than a year old is already fostering collaboration on EV charging, capacity-building for energy-efficient construction and renovations, and region-wide adaptation and resilience strategies. Regional climate action is also a collaboration opportunity between local/regional governments and First Nations. Recognizing Indigenous climate leadership and coming together around shared goals are also important steps towards implementation of regional solutions.
“The goal is to replicate outcomes, not efforts. We just have to move faster.”
Featuring natural assets and green infrastructure as key adaptation measures, critical for providing resilience to extreme weather while also being accessible and enjoyable for residents.
Local governments provide various services to residents and use multiple types of assets to deliver those services. Asset management, therefore, touches every part of a local government and represents an ideal entry point for incorporating climate-related actions and decision-making.
“It also brings every department into the climate discussion, not just the sustainability person,” says Tami Rothery, who leads CEA’s Built Environment Service Area and sees tremendous value in a community’s natural assets. “Unlike engineered or constructed assets which depreciate over time and eventually need replacement, natural assets appreciate and provide a community with so many complementary benefits.”
In fact, Tami bristles at the suggestion of describing nature as an asset. “Really, we should identify with Indigenous perspectives that consider a long-term and reciprocal relationship with the environment.”
Tami Rothery, Senior Community Energy Manager
Julissa Rist, Communications Specialist
It’s a sentiment shared by Julissa Rist, a CEA Communications Specialist based in Lethbridge, Alberta, who also suggested this topic. “If we are more connected to the natural environment in our day-to-day spaces and lives, we begin to notice it, care about it, and form a relationship with it that inspires action.”
The collective expertise, experiences, and passion of CEA’s staff and partners inform the delivery of projects, events/webinars, and networks funded by public and private organizations that share a commitment to local climate leadership. This work is conducted by staff teams organized in service areas that encompass the Built Environment, Capacity and Leadership Development, Communications and Engagement, Indigenous Communities, Planning and Research, and Transportation, and supported by staff in Operations. Fundamental to the organization’s approach to leadership is its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, support for the Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and recognition of the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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