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ICLEI Canada: Local Action Moves the World Studio 204


ICLEI Canada is not an easy organization to describe, so we were lucky to have Acting Director Ewa Jackson help us understand this box-busting non-prot. At the heart of what ICLEI does is the motto local action moves the world and we cant think of a better phrase to keep in mind as we step through their work in sustainability, climate change, and urban biodiversity. ICLEI was created in 1990 at the United Nations Rio Summit to operationalize a sustainability initiative called Agenda 21. From the beginning, it was decided that governance should be participatory and people need to be involved if they wanted to see results. The highest concentrations of people are in cities, so Local Agenda 21 became the municipal component. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI, was born with two hundred cities coming on board as the founding members. As Ewa explains, were a membership based association of cities that want to implement sustainable development and understand the global benets through the accumulation of local action. If you add up the efforts of all the participating cities, it is often more substantial than what national governments can do on their own. Until late 2007, the bulk of ICLEIs programming was focused on greenhouse gas mitigation until the science came out that things had simply gone too far for mitigation alone and attention needed to shift to climate change adaptation. Were going to have more extreme weather (were already seeing it), the average temperatures are going to get hotter, and its going to be wetter. Cities need to prepare their own hard infrastructure (our roads and electrical systems arent meant to withstand this kind of activity) and at the same time help their residents prepare. 4 So what does this look like? The complicated answer is that it looks a little different for each city. ICLEI has created a new online tool called Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities that takes into account the fact that no two Canadian cities are the same, so no one program is going to work for everyone. Instead, its about asking the right questions and creating frameworks that can be used to reach their goals. The tool is also designed to encourage staff participation and ownership of the plan a key ingredient to its success and is built to step a city through constructing their own custom made action plan. We want cities to be able to tangibly do something, not just create plans with many goals and objectives, but actually put them into practice. Urban nature is another hot topic for ICLEI Canada at the moment as they work with cities to conserve their urban parks, promote biodiversity, plant native species, and nurture pollinators. For many city dwellers, their experience of nature happens in these spaces, not by taking a four hour drive to see Canadian wildlife. As Ewa pointed out more people interact with the green roof here at 401 in the summer than they do with what we traditionally call nature. ICLEI will be in Vancouver from April 2 to 4 hosting the Livable Cities Forum that will explore how to build healthy, sustainable, and economically resilient communities.
Above Clockwise from bottom left: Ewa Jackson, Acting Director; Megan Meaney, Director (on maternity leave); Leya Barry, Adaptation and Resilience Project Coordinator; Mike Dean, Project Assistant; Shireen Aslam, Project Assistant; Lili Gao, Accountant/Bookkeeper; Holly Vaughan, Adaptation and Resilience Planner; Bahareh Toghiani Rizi, Climate and Energy Planner; (centre) Nicole Marzok, Biodiversity Project Coordinator