Transformative sustainability governance: triggering change on an urban planet

Friday, November 13, 2015 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

Speaker: Sarah Burch

This event also included a talk by Jason Thistlethwaite of SEED: A financial survival guide to climate change: Start Saving now! A video of both lectures can be found below or on our Vimeo page.


Transitions toward more sustainable development pathways in cities emerge out of a complex constellation of actors, policy initiatives, socio-economic and political pressures, and technological innovations. Strategies that might trigger and accelerate these transitions are increasingly of interest, as international climate negotiations yield uninspiring results and Canada’s own transition stumbles upon deeply regressive environmental and social policy. In this talk I will explore the ingredients of effective sustainability governance in cities, set against the backdrop of Canada’s recent federal election and upcoming United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris. I will highlight the potential role of rarely discussed but crucial actors, such as small businesses, and speculate about the transformative potential of initiatives led by cities across the country. Ultimately, our goal will be to consider what is required to move from incrementalism to a system-wide shift towards resilient, low-carbon cities.



Sarah Burch

Sarah Burch is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada. Burch has published widely on transformative responses to climate change at the community scale, and innovative strategies for governing sustainability.  She co-teaches a massive open online course called ‘Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations,’ which reaches thousands of students in over 130 countries.  

Burch received a PhD in resource management and environmental studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada (2009) and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford (2009-2011). She is a co-ordinating lead author in the second Assessment Report on Climate Change in Cities, and North American co-ordinator of the Earth System Governance network of research fellows. She was a contributing author to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007) and was awarded a Banting Fellowship for her work on sustainability innovation. Her most recent book (2014) is entitled ‘Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy and Practice.’


Remote video URL