In the spirit of COP26, CityStudio Vancouver is profiling climate-related projects
with the potential to scale and have a meaningful impact in cities around the world.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us to stay connected and care for what matters. It taught us to share resources, reach out to our neighbours, and embrace technology. It’s been over two years since the 2019 global climate strike which brought over an estimated 100,000 residents to the streets in Vancouver. Now with the eyes and ears of the world focused on COP26 in Glasgow, the conversation and mobilization on the street continue with what seems the same level of energy. Experts warn the deals and commitments being made do not match the urgency of the moment.
“There’s a lot of big statements, which don’t have the details underneath: exactly when, how much, who’s going to do what,” said Helen Mountford, Vice President for climate and economics with the World Resources Institute.
A new analysis from the Climate Action Tracker research group shows that the world is on track for 2.4 degrees celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100 – well above the 1.5 degree limit the world’s scientists say the planet should stay under. What the leaders at COP26 don’t know is that the answers to some of our most complex questions are closer to home than they might realize – in our cities. The smallest of changes carry the potential for enormous impact. We have only to embrace the energy and imagination of today’s youth.
CityStudio started almost 10 years ago with the mission to advance Vancouver’s goal to be the Greenest City by 2020. Sustainability, climate change, climate action, with youth as agents and equity at the core, are a true passion and commitment. Below are just a few examples of climate-related projects that have come from collaborations of City staff and post-secondary students and faculty facilitated by CityStudio Vancouver. They show us paths with innovation and inspiration.
This project is an insight into climate action equity across Canada. As the City of Vancouver approved its Climate Emergency Action Plan in 2020, it mandated that it’d be equitable because it’s the only way that climate change can have real, lasting impact. This scholarly research by SFU student Ashley Armitage and guided by SFU faculty Andréanne Doyon and City Sustainability Planner, Marga Pacis, focused on what does this mean for policy planning and action in Vancouver, and how is this addressed across the country. 50 municipal climate emergency plans were analysed. With this project we learned that, though there are obvious best practices, Canadian cities are not considering equity and justice enough in their climate action planning. It also recommends that distributional, procedural, and recognition equity must be embedded in all climate action to prevent further inequitable processes and outcomes. It is also noticeably hard to find the concepts of equity, justice and inclusion in #COP26 goals. Check the project summary and report on the website.
City Staff: Marga Pacis
Faculty: Andréanne Doyon
Student(s): Ashley Armitage
This project is a creative response to the City of Vancouver’s focus on how we sequester carbon as part of the Climate Emergency Action Plan. Community Kelp is an innovative and exciting approach to tackle carbon sequestration, ocean acidification, and public education through a demonstration kelp garden and educational panel right here in False Creek! This team of students from Langara Environmental Studies recognized the importance of partnerships, proposing that their garden be a collaborative effort between the City of Vancouver, Science World, and other interested and affected parties, in order to restore and protect ecosystems and help us to reach our Net-Zero goals. Community Kelp hopes to inspire more people to recognize the effects of kelp farming and to eventually host a number of kelp farms in British Columbia in order to grow kelp as a variety of useful products and as a mitigator of ocean acidification.
City Staff: Brad Badelt
School: Langara College
Faculty: Mike Smith-Cairns, Jennifer Weldon
Student team: Shaia Brites, Patt Schavarosk, Ruedi Mani, Preet Bahia
Reasonably Radical is a Climate Change Education Podcast aimed to address the challenge of the climate emergency and connect it to climate education in K-12 schools. Developed by four teachers in the Lower Mainland, enrolled in the Master of Education in Sustainability, they sought to create a new form of professional development that is accessible, engaging, and useful for educators, with links to curriculum and teaching resources. Their project was led from seeking an approach to education that is for people, place, and planet at once. Through this audio journey, listeners will come to see what challenges we face when educating children about climate change, and what we can do to be more effective. Students need to become systems thinkers who can connect the dots, finding and advocating for solutions that address the roots of complex problems, like achieving climate justice and tackling systemic inequality. This will contribute to a public that is more well-informed about enacting meaningful solutions.
City Staff: Brad Badelt
Faculty: Rob Vanwynsberghe
Student team: Derek Van Deursen, Kate Jmaeff, Kathryn Payne, Jasmine Hare
The City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Plan comprises six key initiatives focused on cutting carbon pollution from our biggest local sources – burning fossil fuels in our vehicles (39%) and in our buildings (54%). The first initiative is to develop complete walkable communities with the goal that 90% of Vancouver residents live within walking distance of their daily needs by 2030. This innovative project tackled what a “walkable community” means from the Millennial’s perspective, what they value in their neighborhoods, and to identify key aspects to be incorporated into city plans. Secondary data research, as well as interviews and a survey with 887 responses, indicate that:
- Most Millennials want to live in their cities’ urban core, where they don’t need a car (63%), and choose where they want to live before they look for a job.
- Key amenities of a walkable community include grocery stores, drug stores, banks and financial services, sports clubs, public parks, plazas, cafes, restaurants, walking paths, and public transit.
- Most survey respondents were making a considerable effort to reduce their own environmental impact and are somewhat concerned about climate change.
- Survey respondents were most concerned with the safety and cost associated with living in an urban core.
City Staff: Andrew Pask
Faculty: Tom Joppling, Matt Shepherd
Students: Alexa Thomson, Eadaoine Aulis, Jooah Lee, Lana Gill, Taryn Antalek, Mahshid Ghassemi
COP26 has four goals, the fourth one being “Work Together to Deliver.” Trust-based relationships and collaboration are at the basis of our Theory of Change. Only by working together can we rise to the challenge of the climate crisis and address the global challenges we face.
The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of “holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.” A collaboration of two organizations, Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, the CAT has been providing this independent analysis to policymakers since 2009.