Municipalities must show climate leadership

Coincidentally, the Climate Change Conference (COP 26), considered by many to be the last chance meeting, takes place the same week as the municipal elections in Quebec. If current policies continue, projections indicate an increase in global temperature of 2.7 to 3.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. Such a scenario could trigger a chain reaction in natural systems with dramatic and highly significant consequences. unpredictable. In this regard, municipalities and local communities are at the forefront both in the fight against climate change and in the race against time to adapt to the consequences of this crisis.

We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now and simultaneously increase the resilience of our built, ecological and social systems. These aspects are interrelated: for example, making our building stock more energy efficient through renovations makes electricity available for transport and the conversion of building heating systems, and rethinking land use and reduced residential densities. automobile use and protects farmland and ecosystems.

The urgency of the situation calls for exceptional measures. The usual development processes that engage the public, private and community sectors, individually or in concert, are too slow and sorely lacking in coherence.

In our academic context, the Next-Generation Cities Institute was founded at Concordia University, providing us with a framework to pose problems and articulate responses outside the usual academic modes of operation. The institute aims to facilitate collaboration between researchers and educators from various backgrounds in order to develop integrated and transdisciplinary approaches.

At the heart of our approach is the desire to collaborate at all stages with local communities and stakeholders, who are the primary “customers”, users or beneficiaries of the fruits of our efforts. This innovative approach aims for greater efficiency and speed of action to develop and deploy knowledge, technologies and practices that respond to the climate emergency with a view to inter- and intra-generational equity and social inclusion.

The nature of the problems and the urgency of dealing with them collectively call for such transversal and concerted approaches. Even the best technologies, or public policies, on paper can be useless if they don’t reach their intended recipients. There is no point, for example, in building carbon-neutral housing at great expense if their inhabitants depend on cars for their journeys, or in deploying public transport networks without fighting against urban sprawl. We must aim to maximize the “return on our public, private and community investments” according to environmental, social, economic and cultural criteria.

Collective mobilization is only possible if a principle of equity prevails in terms of the efforts to be made and the expected positive results. Quebec has a long tradition of collective mobilization and cooperation at the local, regional and national levels. This practice extends from neighborhood and sectoral round tables to the conduct of the Estates General.

We call on future municipal officials to exercise their leadership as soon as they are elected, and to use this model, which they know well, to mobilize their communities to fight and adapt to climate change. In general, municipalities are already well aware of the environmental impacts associated with their planning practices and their lifestyles and of the threats that weigh on their populations, their ecosystems and their infrastructures. But here as elsewhere, progress is being made piecemeal and much too slowly.

We therefore encourage municipalities and local communities to establish local tables on climate change in order to identify local issues and bring together citizens and organizations of good will to define priorities and an action plan. Governments should facilitate these exercises by devoting substantial resources to them and by promoting the dissemination and transfer of knowledge and know-how, including from educational and research institutions.

We look forward to sharing our expertise and engaging our students in research and teaching activities in order to demonstrate good citizenship. We strongly encourage local communities to turn to the resources available in college and university networks. We believe our peers and their students share our commitment to action.

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