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Laurier Research Centre Leads New International Partnership to Address How Equity and Accessibility are Addressed Within Climate Action Planning

WATERLOO – In response to the worsening climate crisis an increasing number of municipalities and other local authorities across the world have declared climate emergencies and developed comprehensive climate action plans. There is a growing recognition, however, that these well-intentioned efforts can exacerbate or create social inequities within communities. Environmentally-driven investment into light rail transit, for example, often encourages the gentrification of inner city neighbourhoods, which can result in the displacement of low-income groups. Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University are teaming up with stakeholders across Canada and internationally to identify, develop, and test innovative and practical approaches to addressing climate change in a manner that is just and equitable to all.

Led by Laurier’s Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS), the project titled Toward Just Transitions: A Partnership for Addressing Equity and Accessibility in Municipal Climate Action Planning, will be launched this fall with a series of three online workshops. These workshops will bring together members of equity-seeking groups, local authorities and organizations that support them, social innovators, and academics in an effort to collectively shape and focus the project. Core partners that have joined the first phase of the project include the City of Kitchener, Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners (CUSP), ICLEI Canada, Eviance, the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, the Flourishing Enterprise Institute, r3.0, REFOCUS, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, and OCAD University among others.

“By bringing together individuals and organizations with such a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives we want to transcend traditional boundaries of disciplines and sectors and jointly find approaches that go beyond incremental changes and lead to a just transition towards sustainable communities,” said Manuel Riemer, the Director of VERiS and the Primary Investigator for the study. “This exchange is intended to set the foundation for a long-term, international applied research program with a key focus on the Canadian context.”


The first workshop of the partnership project will be dedicated to identifying key questions and challenges related to the equity gap in climate action planning.  The session will help focus the planned research project and will take place on September 24 from 10 am to 1 pm EST. It will feature keynote presentations by Dr. Julian Agyeman, one of the world’s most renowned experts on sustainability justice, and Justin Readman, the General Manager of Development Services at the City of Kitchener, along with interactive breakout discussions that will be facilitated among participants representing the four key stakeholder groups in focus. The final two workshops in the series will be hosted on October 23 and November 12 2020 and focused on developing a research approach and an equitable partnership governance model for the long-term project, respectively. Keynote presenters will include two core project partners: Bill Baue Senior Director of r3.0 (Redesign for Resilience and Regeneration), a global non-profit that facilitates collaboration among leading organizations to address the transformation of systems necessary for our planet to thrive and Dr. Ciann Wilson, an Associate Professor within Laurier’s Community Psychology program and the Co-Director of Laurier’s Centre for Community Research, Learning, and Action. The workshops and the partnership project being developed are supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Connection grant, as well as funding from VERiS and the City of Kitchener. 

The work of this group will build upon an existing collaboration which Dr. Riemer’s team and Climate Action WR are focused on integrating considerations of sustainability justice into Waterloo Region’s community climate action plan, as well as an exciting partnership recently established between the Flourishing Enterprise Institute (a research stream under the umbrella of VERiS), OCAD University, the City of Kitchener, and REFOCUS.

“The City of Kitchener is led by an amazingly ambitious and progressively-minded administration. We are excited to begin exploring opportunities for Kitchener to leverage new, leading-edge management innovations that have been designed to address the increasingly complex and volatile future unfolding”, explains Randy Sa’d the Executive Director of REFOCUS and the Co-Lead for the larger partnership project.

REFOCUS is a ground-breaking, not-for-profit co-operative dedicated to enabling enterprise leaders to effectively respond to accelerating global change. This team was recently awarded a SSHRC Partner Engage Grant valued at just under $25,000 in support of a one-year applied research project.  The project is designed to capture and widely share what is learned by working with Kitchener’s Corporate Leadership Team to explore how bold innovations can be leveraged to evolve planning and more general management practices.

Are You Interested?

People interested in becoming a partner and joining the workshops, or simply following the project as it progresses are encouraged to contact Manuel Riemer .

More information about the projects mentioned in this article and other key partners can be found on the VERiS website.

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