eDemocracy Webinar Series - Social

Webinar Summary

0:00 - Housekeeping notes from hosts.
1:31 - Host Andrea Reimer introduces herself and the topic: local governments and climate action during the pandemic. Many governments had only just recently declared climate emergencies before the shut down. 
4:33 - Andrea introduces Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Councillor and Chair of the FCM Green Municipal Fund. She reads the first interactive polling question: do you feel as though things are returning to business as usual in your community? (See results in the PDF at the top of this page). 
6:11 - Ben Henderson gives some background to Edmonton’s progress and challenges with their 2030 and 2050 climate targets. They recently committed themselves to putting every capital and operational decision through the lens of their municipal carbon budget. 
“It’s becoming really clear as we re-imagine the city that we don’t need to put the city back the way it was. We can imagine the next version of the city we want.”
12:45 - Ben talks about the different Green Municipal Fund programs, which currently add up to one billion dollars, that local governments can apply for. So far, it looks like communities are anticipating that their sustainability goals will stay on track. 
15:42 - Andrea introduces Christine Boyle, Vancouver City Councillor and climate justice activists, and reads the next polling question: what is the biggest climate-related impact you've been seeing in your community as a result of the pandemic?
16:17 - Christine outlines the ‘six big moves’ that were set out in Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Plan, and the progress that has been made so far. Their biggest challenges are around transit and decreased ridership due to COVID, as well as budgeting crunches. Christine believes that for local governments to continue leading on climate change, they need new fiscal tools to be more economically resilient.
24:42 - Andrea introduces Sherry Yano, Manager of Community Renewable Energy and Energy Transitions at David Suzuki Foundation, to talk about a national perspective on climate work across the country. The third polling question is: What is the biggest climate-related negative impact you’ve been seeing in your community as a result of the pandemic? 
26:54 - Where are the residents in all of this? According to Sherry, there is great potential now for local governments to engage residents in co-creating a safer, more resilient future on climate action plans. Today, polling shows that Canadians are more compassionate, empathetic, and more aware of inequity in our systems, and will likely be supportive of new climate policies if they are equitable. 
36:15 - Andrea introduces Ben West, Executive Director of Ethelo eDemocracy Solutions. The fourth polling question is, “What is the biggest obstacle to climate action right now in your community?”
38:41 - Ben West explains what 'carbon budgeting' means in the context of local governments. 
"If we were facing an emergency in our city's budget, this would be an all hands on deck moment. We would have people in every department thinking about how we could stay within our budget, what needs to be done to reach those goals. And obviously, we need to be thinking about climate change and our carbon budget in a similar way."
39:59 - Ben shares his screen to walk through the Ethelo Carbon Budgeting platform, currently being piloted in Salt Spring Island B.C., and how it helps communities develop fair, actionable climate action plans. 
"I think there's never been a more important time to involve everybody in sort of plotting a path forward. I think we have every opportunity to actually strengthen democracy right now.
46:58 - Where does the money come from? Andrea asks the speakers to discuss what they predict will come down the pipe in terms of provincial and federal funding for local governments. 
47:45 - Ben Henderson predicts that the focus in Alberta will be on job creation, which could be looked at through a sustainability lens. He notes that the real problems the municipalities are having are not around capital, they are around operating. 
49:11 - Vancouver is also in a tight operating crunch, is not expecting much in the way of finance, but is in alignment with the provincial government on climate pieces. They are hopeful for federal funding on capital projects and are getting ready to put funding to work as soon as it comes.
"We're doing the work of prioritizing and being as as shovel-ready as we can for the kinds of projects we would like to do, [which] hopefully I have a strong equity lens."
51:10 - Ben West mentions the importance of individual behaviour change at the community level and making people aware of ‘low hanging fruit’ opportunities. In Salt Spring Island, for example, survey participants have overwhelmingly said they are willing to pay higher taxes for improved bus services. 
53:09 - Andrea and Ben Henderson discuss the challenges of getting the taxpayer on board with climate plans, without the perception of pushing an extra cost onto them. 
55:15 - Christine talks about the importance of listening to different stories and experiences when shaping these kinds of policies, to make sure they are equitable.  
57:15 - Sherry speaks to the importance of giving people more access to information about incentives for personal behaviour change, which later may leads them to more civic participation. She also talks about how to leverage private money with different levels of public investment for innovative solutions. 
1:00:00 - Andrea Reimer wraps up the conversation. 

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