It is post-election here in Ontario and this is not where we wanted to be! If we work together though, we can continue to push for policies and actions that truly support healthy, just and climate-safer communities.
Leading up to the election, we’ve built connections and mobilized by participating in many initiatives including the “Emergency in Ontario: Rally for Climate, Environment and Communities” on May 14th and at local events in Scarborough.
Let’s continue to work together for positive changes that centre anti-racism, decolonization and anti-oppression as we address climate change!
On that note, one of the things happening now until July 15 is the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) public engagement period to collect ideas and comments from citizens about how we handle the impacts of climate change.
On June 14th, Toronto350 and ClimateFast worked together, along with Climate Legacy and Nature Canada, to hold a webcast discussing how we can give our input. Here is the video of the webcast and the follow-up information doc if you missed it!
TO350 members developed a toolkit meant to spark ideas and inspire participation. It is a crowd-sourced document, so hop on in, find the topics that interest you and add your comments or make suggestions!
At the NAS webcast, a few key questions and ideas came up, underlining the need for positive change.
Need for Real Action
For example, how can we ensure that our voices are heeded and that policy goes beyond just words often not backed up by adequate action. Case in point, there are statements about Indigenous Knowledge in the NAS discussion papers but we have yet to see meaningful action on reconciliation.
Here is a sample point from the TO350 NAS Toolkit*:
- Indigenous peoples are often more exposed to climate impacts and on top of that, experience systemic oppression that reduces adaptive capacity. Beyond support for things like safety training, ensuring access to land, as well as cultural programs, including language, and the protection of cultural assets are critical for health and wellbeing.
[For a source of information on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Health in Canada, see this blog by Indigenous Climate Action]
We can let our political leaders and others with power know that we see the gaps between word and action, need and response. We can demand accountability. Many grassroots groups like TO350 are also stepping back for a bit and asking “what’s next”? What are the most effective strategies and actions we can take now?
Thinking Outside of the Box
At the NAS webcast, I also heard that people want to speak around the margins of the proposed objectives. Ideas like reinvented economics, reimagined spiritual approaches, and regenerative agriculture, were among the many unique points that people wanted to bring to the discussion. The Forum or email option may be the best format to contribute these important comments.
Engagement Process Links and Resources
- TO350 - NAS Response Toolkit - Add your comments and ideas!
- Climate Legacy How to Participate Video: https://bit.ly/3b140i8
- NAS discussion paper
- Engagement platform: https://letstalkadaptation.ca/
- Email submissions: [email protected]
Responses are due by July 15!
A Single Tree to The Entire Forest
The government needs to hear from everyone! We can help underline common messages, emphasizing that action matters to us. At the same time, adaptation needs and priorities are unique to individuals, communities and groups. The big picture is important, but so are all the small, essential pieces. Everything from wildfire ready eaves troughs, to the livability of low-rise apartments, to whole protected ecosystems matter.
The discussion questions for the engagement period allow us to share our own stories. For example, on the topic of Health and Wellbeing, I could share that in my rural home town I see the threat of disease from tick bites, mental health challenges for farmers due to extreme weather and heat for outdoor workers as climate threats. Let them know what concerns you in your area!
Some points from the toolkit:
- Provide all remote communities with community based environmental monitoring stations to ensure high quality data is used to model climate trends in remote areas.
- Develop tools to help individuals complete a personal climate risk assessment to understand the types of climate risks they face and how to prepare for them.
Sample Answer to Discussion Questions: I live in an area prone to wildfires and I want to have better information on the best practices I can take to ensure that my house is not affected by the fires.
Two Sides of the Coin
Another theme that came up at the NAS webcast was that we can’t forget actions to reduce emissions while we focus on adaptation. Adaptation is not a substitute for mitigation! If we pass a certain point, it’ll be virtually impossible to adapt.
That said, mitigation and adaptation are two sides of the same coin. To handle climate change, we need both. We can’t mitigate and act on climate change if we can’t cope and adapt. Both are about survival.
A point from the toolkit:
- The dramatic societal shift required necessitates a focus on coping and strengthening communities as well as bringing down emissions. For health and wellbeing it is essential that GHGs are reduced now! For GHGs to be reduced now, communities must be strong and healthy amidst the changing climate.
Sample comment: During blackouts in my rural home town, power has been fed back into the grid by a wind turbine nearby. Many farmers also have solar panels in their fields. I think enabling more community led clean energy would increase adaptive capacity.
Root Causes for Justice
Adaptation is also central to climate justice. We need action on a massive scale to stem the tide of emissions as well as handle ongoing climate threats. The responsibility should not fall on those who are most vulnerable or least able to afford the changes required.
Some points on equity from the toolkit:
- Help people take proactive measures to protect themselves and their communities. This includes addressing root causes that serve to make people more vulnerable and less able to adapt i.e. economic and social determinants.
- Establish means to ensure everyone has access to places with air-conditioning/heat for free during extreme heat or cold.
- Plans should be intergenerational, including youth in decision-making as well as thinking ahead in order to protect the health and wellbeing of future generations. Focused efforts to prepare, support and increase adaptive capacity are critical.
Sample Comment: With the rising cost of essential goods and services, my family is currently struggling to get by on a daily basis. The additional stress of having to deal with events like flooding and wildfires leading to loss of property is very high in my community. The NAS should include means to help families such as mine weather these events without further stressing our finances.
Integration, inter-dependence, interconnection - these are also important themes. Protecting human and non-human life and ecosystems is essential. Human, animal and environmental health are intertwined. Social capital is a critical factor. Mental, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of health and wellbeing are inseparable.
Some points from the toolkit:
- Health and Wellbeing also includes natural ecosystems and infrastructure, all human and non-human life. Protection and restoration of nature underpins human health.
- Work with & support Indigenous organizations to bring Indigenous values to managing Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).
- Create plans that focus on people interacting and developing relationships with natural areas rather than controlling and profiting from their destruction.
Sample Comment: I live in a densely populated neighbourhood in Toronto that has seen a lot of growth and development in the past decade. Increased rain due to climate change and loss of trees and green spaces has increased flooding dramatically. Urban densification, especially around major transit routes, is important, but we also need to ensure our tree cover and green spaces are protected and enhanced.
To end, let’s look at Ontario again. At the NAS webcast many were worried about the lack of commitment to adequate action here. Accountability from our elected leaders in this province is critical. We decided that we need to make and hold them to our own metrics!
Here are a few points from the toolkit:
- Establish climate resilience metrics and audit provincial and local governments on these metrics to ensure the complete EM chain can respond effectively.
- Development plans must have a climate & biodiversity lens applied. This must be legislated and enforceable.
Sample comment: I’m worried about Ontario and the backward action on climate over the past four years as well as cuts to other sectors like health, social services and education. These are all essential for our health and wellbeing ongoing. The National Adaptation Strategy should set some means to ensure that all leadership bodies responsible for facilitating actions are both empowered and accountable.
It’s taken many of us a while to regroup and rethink post election. Many people are and will experience impacts from backward steps and lack of action on a provincial level. These impacts will be felt disproportionately due to economic and social injustice. We have our work cut out for us, if we want to see action from our provincial leaders to protect strong social infrastructure and the climate.
Something that gives me hope though, are the conversations and interactions I’ve had with community members over the past few weeks. Many are already working to confront injustice. They see the interconnections between different issues and the value in supporting each other, both responding in the moment with kindness and considering what to do next individually and collectively.
*See the toolkit for some selected references that support the toolkit comments.