Themes:

Sustainability is a disruptor

August 29, 2016

Sustainability is a disruptor because it fundamentally challenges the way we live, work and play. Many of the systems that have evolved over the last century promote short-term decision making.  These systems tend to put aside the consideration of broader social, economic and environmental impacts. Climate change, and the externalized costs associated with the release of carbon into the atmosphere, is a good...

Provincial policies support thermal energy

July 25, 2016

Thermal energy is a growing theme in provincial land use policies. I attended a workshop last week on two far-reaching provincial policy documents.  The two documents were Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) and  the review of the growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. That is to say, Ontario’s developing land use and climate policy framework was the focus of the day. Both documents acknowledge the...

Elephants in the room

June 28, 2016

Positive Energy hosted a workshop recently on public confidence in energy decision processes.  The conversation focused on public authorities because energy regulators are struggling to engage communities and civil society. The organizers introduced several “elephants” into the room because new social forces are impacting traditional decision processes.  These forces impact many sectors not just the energy world. The list began with the...

Principles lead the way to low carbon future

June 15, 2016

  It is easy to get distracted during disruptive times – there are shiny new objects at every turn.  How do you wade through the different options?  Tried and true principles. QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) held their annual strategic planning session in early June, engaging staff, board members and regional caucus chairs in a well-facilitated two days.  Celebrating its 10th...

Top Asks For Climate Action released today

June 9, 2016

Canada must act quickly if we are to meet our international climate change commitments, and local governments are central to achieving our goals. Local governments influence over 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The reality is clear: Canada can’t be a leader without local government action.  I was thrilled to be asked to work with the Columbia Institute on this...

Energy transition needs to engage people

May 20, 2016

In my virtual twitter world, everyone gets climate change and is working on solutions to prevent further global warming.  They are busy figuring out how to manage the impacts we are already experiencing and to be better prepared for what is coming down the pipe. Mind you I follow @climateoutreach, @350, @OntarioClimate, @MAC_Climate among many others.  You get the picture. In...

Local governments should have our backs on energy security

May 14, 2016

  I am in the final stages of a project for a client.  It is a toolkit for local elected leaders to build more resilient, sustainable and prosperous communities for all Canadians by taking action on climate change. I had the good fortune of talking to a friend about this work who pointed me to the work of George Marshall. ...

Accelerating the transition to low-carbon cities

April 25, 2016

There is an urgent need to accelerate the transition to low-carbon cities. Despite the best efforts of many cities and supporting organizations, we have not seen the uptake or progress we need to help meet Canada’s international climate change commitments. We are great at planning and pilots. We need scale and we need it fast. Our country is among the...

Low carbon cities contribute to our wellbeing

April 20, 2016

Part of my presentation yesterday at the Big Ideas, Better Cities conference on climate change focused on the many co-benefits that come with the transition to low carbon cities.  The theme was echoed by several others presenters. When I talk about wellbeing, I like to use to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) as my starting point.  The CIW is a Canadian...

It's the low-carbon economy, stupid

April 13, 2016

With an economy heavily dependent on fossil fuel extraction, Canada has struggled to find a credible path forward on climate change. Our emissions are among the highest in the world and are projected to increase without significant intervention. There is a substantial gap between Canada’s current greenhouse gas reduction targets and what will be necessary to honour the commitments made in...

Energy disruption no fantasy

April 12, 2016

Guelph’s community energy plan has been in the news lately.  Understanding why is instructive.  This is my take on it. First, a community energy plan (CEP) is nothing more than a tool to help a community figure out how to use less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving local economic development.  Guelph’s CEP aims to make Guelph a low-carbon city. ...

Farmers fuel cities

March 28, 2016

There is a saying I see around town printed on bright yellow posters – Farmers Feed Cities.  Today that means more than food.  It also means energy – wind, solar, biomass, and bio-gas.  Farmers fuel cities too. While in Kingston last week, I took in a discussion on rural communities and renewable energy.  The focus of the panel was mostly on solar...

Our Common Future

March 24, 2016

There was an obituary in the Globe and Mail yesterday celebrating the remarkable contribution of a Canadian civil servant to global thinking on sustainable development and climate change.  His name was Jim MacNeill and he was one of the authors of Our Common Future published in 1987. This was an important report in my life and for many people around me at the time. It certainly...

Joining the energy transition

March 21, 2016

I find it painful to listen to the dying gasps of the climate change deniers as the evidence mounts. There is a begrudging acknowledgment that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed and the amount of snow and ice has diminished and sea levels have risen. True, their acknowledgement continues to be tempered by raising doubt about the contribution of fossil...

Solution-focused leadership

March 13, 2016

Someone recently sent me this great graphic about the difference between a boss and a leader.  Personally, I would say “tyrant” rather than “boss” because they are very hard on an organization. I  have also seen this management style referred to as “toxic leadership” in management books. I can think of many stories that are illustrative of these behaviours and their...

More than pricing carbon

March 9, 2016

Some of the proponents of the BC carbon tax are only telling part of the story. I am not weighing in on the right mechanism to price carbon. Whether it is a tax, cap and trade, or fee and dividend, we need to price carbon in Canada. There are pros and cons with each approach along with regional differences in...

Defending democracy

March 5, 2016

Over the years, I was asked many times: “what does a mayor do?” My most common response was to talk about the activities of a mayor – attending meetings, answering constituent questions and joining the community in celebrating special events. Sometimes though, I would answer with what I came to understand was my first and foremost function as a mayor: to...

A role for an energy efficiency utility

March 3, 2016

I have often pondered the intrinsic conflict of asking an electricity or gas utility to deliver a program that reduces their customers’ consumption of electricity or gas, respectively. It’s like asking a coffee shop to sell less coffee to save on coffee beans. Of course, the regulator allows the utility to recoup their lost revenue through increased rates and presumably...

Samso: more than carbon neutral

February 7, 2016

While making breakfast, my husband likes to listen to the CBC. Today he heard a story about a small island in Denmark. This was the second time in a week that the little island of Samso has come up in conversation. This is perhaps not so surprising when you learn that Samso is the first island in the world to...

This would help local climate change action

February 3, 2016

Communities across Canada have identified an energy and emissions inventory as the most important tool to encourage emission reductions. However, there are few policies that encourage the development and monitoring of inventories in Canada. The development of greenhouse gas inventories is time consuming.  Getting access to reliable data often proves challenging for local governments.  Small communities often don’t have the resources to...