In the fight against climate change, cities across the planet aren’t waiting around for national governments to give them permission to reduce carbon emissions.
Alumnus Devin Causley (BES ’02, MAES ’07) works with governments to adopt better climate policy as manager of capacity building at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“We have solutions and we’ve had them for a while,” says Causley. “Now we need to get serious and strategic about applying them.”
He’s leading the five-year, $75 million Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program. It offers grants and training to about 3,800 municipalities and partner organizations in the best positions to make change.“About half of our emissions come from cities or urban environments,” he explains. “That’s also where you have the economies of scale to make projects work.”
For instance, several Canadian municipalities are looking at developing district heat projects: underground plants that efficiently heat and cool multiple buildings or even entire neighbourhoods. They can also generate power locally.
Causley would make one change to garner the greatest impact: “I’d put us on a road diet,” he says. “Maintain the infrastructure we have, but stop building new roads and put that money into mass transit.”
Causley is also an avid traveller. He frequently visits cities round the world to learn from global best practices.
For instance, Madrid recently banned most cars from its city centre, only permitting those belonging to local residents, zero-emissions delivery vehicles, taxis and public transit.
It’s a local change that could echo across Europe as larger delivery companies convert their fleets to zero-emissions vehicles to do business in a European capital such as Madrid.
“Canada has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to building and integrating alternative transport systems to the private automobile,” he says. “Examples exist, in Canada and abroad. We just need the long-term vision, will and partnerships. You can explain the urgency. But at some point, people are going to experience the urgency.”