Adapting cities to climate change

Devin Causley rejoicing on a glacier in the antarctic

When Devin Causley enrolled as an undergraduate in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo in 1998 he wasn’t exactly sure where the degree would eventually take him. The school was in his home town which would keep him close to his family, and the course work would satisfy a curiosity developed after many hours spent playing SimCity.  Beyond that though, he wasn’t quite sure.

It was only after he’d graduated in 2002 and begun his job search that his career came into focus. After a few dead ends, his persistence led to a position with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, organizing their Sustainable Communities Conference. His earliest duties included promoting environmental sustainability in Canadian cities through mitigating behavior contributing to climate change. This included reducing greenhouse gasses and energy conservation by managing the Partners for Climate Protection program.  

Sensing there were potential economic opportunities for municipalities hoping to curb their energy use Causley returned to the University of Waterloo in 2006 to earn his Master’s of Applied Environmental Studies in Local Economic Development. The degree was another academic feather in his cap and offered insight into the practical ways cities can apply sustainability practices while improving their bottom line at the same time.

“The question I always ask people is, ‘do you know how much you spend on energy?’ says Causley. “A city with over a million people spends in the order of $100 million a year on energy just for their corporate operations, never mind the community overall. If none of that energy is generated   locally then all of those funds leave the community. Imagine the economic stimulus if that energy could be generated locally. It would create employment, save the community money and it would be more efficient.”

As his professional experience grew, and knowledge of how cities interact with the natural environment broadened, his focus shifted towards the emerging field of climate change adaptation and community energy planning. In particular he looked at how integrated community energy solutions could facilitate both environmental and economic development goals.

To promote a climate change adaptation strategy, Causley has worked with with organizations such as Engineers Canada identifying where a community might be at risk to the effects of climate change and provide protocols and training so municipal engineers can repair and design infrastructure accordingly.

However, Causley’s passion for the environment doesn’t end at the workplace. In 2010 he had the unforgettable opportunity to travel to Antarctica and learn first-hand about some of the impacts of climate change on the southern continent.