2022-2026 strategic plan

Collage representing the strategic plan.

The University of Waterloo Climate Institute (WCI) (formerly the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change or IC3) developed a new strategic plan that will chart its course for the next five years. A renewed strategic vision and core objectives aligned with the University of Waterloo’s institutional strategy, Connecting Imagination with Impact, will position WCI and our members to lead in critical research areas, and advance knowledge to achieve local to global impact.

Guiding principles and values

The following principles were identified to guide the development and implementation of WCI’s strategic plan over the coming five years:

  1. Our objectives, actions, and timelines should reflect the urgency of the need for action to address the climate crisis.
  2. Our structures and activities will support meaningful inclusion and amplification of under-represented and diverse perspectives to meet the research needs of Indigenous and marginalized communities.
  3. We will focus on adding value and removing barriers for UWaterloo’s faculty, students, and staff engaged in interdisciplinary climate change research, education, and action.
  4. Our objectives should be ambitious within the current funding landscape and University context, while actively anticipating changes to this landscape.
  5. We will apply creative and bold approaches to achieve impact on research, education, practice, and policy-making.

Core strategic goal

Over the next five years, we will achieve a major advancement in the impact of University of Waterloo research and education locally, nationally and globally, to become Canada’s most vibrant, relevant, and innovative hub of climate change knowledge: one that is internationally recognized and connected, and grows out of Waterloo’s unique character and strengths.

Strategic objectives

In order to meet our strategic goal within the next five years, WCI will concentrate its resources and efforts on three interconnected pillars of our Strategic Framework: expanding interdisciplinary research in priority areas, building capacity for inter- and transdisciplinary research and education, and supporting knowledge mobilization. Six main objectives within these pillars will guide our actions and activities.

Pillars

Objectives

Pillar 1: Expanding Interdisciplinary Research in Priority Areas
  • Objective 1: Establish cross-Faculty and cross-sectoral climate research hubs on campus to catalyze and support transdisciplinary research.
  • Objective 2: Secure major interdisciplinary research grants.
Pillar 2: Building Capacity for Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research and Education
  • Objective 3: Increase the value and remove barriers for our members and partners to engage in inter- and transdisciplinary research.
  • Objective 4: Catalyse and coordinate new cross-Faculty interdisciplinary climate change education to attract and train the world’s brightest students.
Pillar 3: Supporting Knowledge Mobilization
  • Objective 5: Establish and support strong knowledge mobilization capacity for the benefit of society.
  • Objective 6: Catalyze and support the expansion of climate change entrepreneurship and commercialization programs that act as launchpads for UWaterloo-developed innovations.

 

Research themes

Waterloo Climate Institute (WCI) member expertise and research have always covered the three core areas of climate change research (mitigation, adaptation, physical science) and have spanned the spectrum from fundamental to applied. WCI will re-align core strengths and capacity to ensure cross-cutting topics are embedded, and that the interconnected nature of broader sustainability research is considered. Research taking place under these themes is both fundamental, exploratory science, as well as applied, community-oriented, and community-identified scholarship.

WCI will focus on the following core and cross-cutting theme areas, and also support research and inquiry that intersects with and spans across these themes:

Core research themes

Deep decarbonization and sustainability transitions

Light rail transit represents deep decarbonization and sustainability transitions.

Transitions to sustainability are multi-faceted phenomena, requiring expertise in a range of science, social science and humanities disciplines. Our members are creating the technological advances that are necessary to wean society off of fossil fuels; they are exploring the urban forms and building technologies that contribute to more sustainable futures, and they are applying novel techniques to explore the many opportunities and obstacles along pathways to those futures.

Spanning many disciplines, mitigation research focuses on climate policies and governance, communication, energy efficiency and emissions-reducing technologies and approaches, engineered negative emissions solutions such as carbon capture, utilization and storage, and nature-based solutions that will support the global transition towards a low-carbon society. Sustainability transitions research explores the many intersections among water, food, climate, and energy issues, while also uncovering the policies, behaviours, discourse, socio-political dynamics, and markets that may enable or inhibit change.

Climate science, modelling and observation

Christine Dow doing research in the Artic represents cliamte science, modelling and observation.

Bringing together Waterloo’s excellence in engineering, computer science, applied math and environmental monitoring, our members are building our understanding of how the climate system works and how it is changing. Through advancements in the application of artificial intelligence, remote sensing, machine learning, and geospatial modeling, they are discovering important insights about the climate system, and developing the tools and data needed to support governments and the private sector in their climate change planning.

Climate risks, resilience and adaptation

Waterloo park is an example of resilience and adaptation.

Our members are designing ways we can build resilient communities and economies that will be better able to withstand the accelerating impacts of a changing climate. Risk assessments are shedding light on how climate change will impact our critical infrastructure, businesses and supply chains, public health, and our most vulnerable communities. Research is also pointing to strategies that will help us adapt to these new conditions using nature-based solutions, technology, planning and land use changes, risk communication, and rethinking our financial, health and social support systems.

Cross-cutting research themes

Cutting across the three core domains are several themes that respond directly to the current and evolving challenges facing Canada and the world. These themes are lenses through which WCI’s research may be interpreted and developed, helping to ensure that our work is timely, relevant and inclusive.

  • Equity and justice – Marginalized and Indigenous communities bear the brunt of climate change impacts, and are often excluded from conversations about the pace and direction of decarbonization efforts. As such, equity and justice are imperatives that run through all domains of climate research. This requires the elevation and support of traditionally marginalized and Indigenous scholars, co-producing new research methodologies that meaningfully engage affected communities throughout the research process, including structures to support community-identified research, and research design that interrogates the intersections of justice with climate change causes and consequences.
  • Governance – Like equity and justice, issues related to the governance of climate change run through all three core research themes. Researchers explore the most effective policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the division of responsibility for climate change among various levels of government, the involvement of various businesses and civil society actors, and how decisions unfold. Ultimately, the cross-cutting theme of governances draws our attention to the process of collective decision-making on climate change, how and at what scale decisions are made, and who is accountable for the outcomes.
  • Innovation – Technological, process and social innovations have the potential to disrupt entrenched fossil fuel-based economies and societies, challenge unsustainable modes of production and consumption, enable better decision-making, and trigger shifts toward low carbon, resilient development pathways. The dynamics of innovation run through our three core areas of research, including the costs and consequences of new negative emissions technologies, business models that accelerate progress toward sustainability, and the policy environment required to stimulate effective, inclusive, and just innovation.
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