Climate Action Canada's four step plan for 2017
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Putting Life into Climate Action

If people can't see benefit in climate action, what chance have we?

Editor: Chris Winter

"This is how to stop demagogues and extremists: rebuild community."

Powerful words from George Monbiot (above), in an article published in the Guardian 8th February 2017: "All Together Now." And if you haven't seen the article, you should read it before continuing with this newsletter.

Really. He nails it. How the decline in our support for community has sown the seeds of political extremism.

"Without community, politics is dead. But communities have been scattered like dust in the wind. At work, at home, both practically and imaginatively, we are atomised."

"It is in the powder of shattered communities that anti-politics swirls, raising towering dust devils of demagoguery and extremism. These tornadoes threaten to tear down whatever social structures still stand."


The answer to our political problems lies not in more politics, but in reinvigorating community capacity to engage and support people. It lies in restoring our capacity to act and care for each other, and in creating a social mandate that trumps ideology. Monbiot gives numerous examples and quotes a U.K. study showing that the process of community regeneration takes about three years.

"The result is communities that are vibrant and attractive to live in, that generate employment, that are environmentally sustainable and socially cohesive, in which large numbers of people are involved in decision-making. Which sounds to me like where we need to be."

I have personally seen thirty years of steady attrition in community funding and voluntary sector support - so much so that "austerity" and "accountability" have now become part of our culture. We are all at fault. We have lost sight of the importance of investing in people and communities.

This is precisely why social benefit and community action need to be included in Canada's climate plans. We have designed our climate plans to reduce carbon. Period. And then we try to convince people the plan is in their interest. This approach sows the seeds for discontent and a backlash at the polls. Maybe not the next election, but eventually.

We need to re-evaluate Canada's climate plans through a social benefit lens. More than just better marketing, it's ensuring that carbon revenue is used to improve our lives and strengthen our communities as well as reduce carbon emissions.

People need to see personal benefit in climate solutions. And we who work on climate change need to see climate action as a force for investing in communities and restoring confidence in government leadership.

The need: a radically pragmatic approach

What we need is nothing short of a complete overhaul of how we approach climate change. We need to put people at the heart of climate plans, whether it be for direct self interest or broader social benefit. People need to see that acting on climate change will improve their lives.

This is a radical concept, in that it goes against the traditional approach of leading with climate projections and framing climate action as a sacrifice or a cost. It is also pragmatic, in that it recognizes that the transition to a low-carbon future is a long process, and that it will be easier if we can demonstrate personal and social benefit from adopting climate solutions. The science is still the imperative for change, but the driver is social benefit. Climate action shifts from being an environmental cause to a social movement.

Sound hard, naive perhaps? If you think so, reread Monbiot's challenge. This is important.

Is it doable? Absolutely. I have a four point plan for Climate Action Canada. Even if you can find one point of common cause, we can move the agenda forward.

 

How we can win the climate battle


Take a look at the updated action plan and website for Climate Action Canada. This is how we can build public support, funding, and capacity for climate action in Canada.

There are four priorities for 2017:
  1. A National Petition: building the voice for including people in Canada's climate plans;
  2. Climate Funding: connecting carbon revenue with social benefit, and finding new funding sources based on co-benefits of climate action;
  3. Community Action: helping communities organize and take action on climate change;
  4. Climate Leaders: a national marketing campaign to promote voluntary leadership.

These four actions are interconnected, mutually reinforcing, and they will help build a national climate action movement. They push the envelope, but they are achievable.

Imagine, for example, that instead of dozens of online petitions promoting climate leadership, all the NGOs supported a common, nation-wide petition whose results could be used to press for  action at the municipal, provincial, or federal level. We work together in promoting the petition to our members, and the results are tabulated and presented online by municipality and province as well as nation-wide. A common petition can lay the foundation of public support for integrating social benefit into Canada's climate plans.


You can see the full list of opportunities to get involved in supporting Climate Action Canada at http://climateaction.ca/how-you-can-help/.

Some Bright Sparks

Here's what makes me think this is possible. From local activists to senior governments, there are numerous examples of leadership in linking climate action with social benefit.

These are a few of the bright sparks I have come across over the past year (most of them are examples of community based action in Toronto where I live and volunteer):
  • CREW Toronto, a dedicated volunteer group working to support building and neighbourhood plans for extreme weather readiness
  • Transform TO, Toronto's ambitious new climate plan that links climate action and community co-benefits in a vision for the city in 2050.
  • Lyn Adamson and Climate Fast, who led a determined campaign to have Toronto City Council support Transform TO in their 2017/18 budget (with some success)
  • TCAN, the Toronto Climate Action Network, that brings local groups and activists together to maintain the pressure for climate action.
  • Green Neighbours, ward-based green groups that are a fantastic model for community engagement around climate action and community benefit (see Green Neighbours 13 and Green 21 as examples)
  • Project Neutral, a small but effective organization that helps communities go deeper with their commitment to climate action.
  • Small Change Fund, crowd sourcing for the environment. One to watch as they develop a climate program to support community projects and campaigns.
  • Turn Back the Tide: my favourite government information site with a catchy title and well-organized information on climate solutions and available support from the government and other sources.
For more resources, see The Best Sites, and be sure to send me your suggestions.

Action

Get Help

If you have questions about Climate Action Canada, or how to adapt and adopt material into your own activities, drop me a line

If you need professional advice and support, I am available for consulting or embedded contracts to help design and implement climate action plans and campaigns, including social benefit analysis, building community action, or designing a climate campaign. Please see www.cwinter.ca for details.


 

Quick Steps

Here's a few ideas on how you can help build the momentum for Climate Action Canada:
  1. Support the petition: send me comments, or sign up your organization as a supporter.
  2. fill in the community action survey - tell me what's happening in your community.
  3. Make a contribution on our Fundrazr page and help make our material available to groups across the country.
About Climate Action Canada
Climate Action Canada is an independent initiative created by Chris Winter, based on over thirty years experience in environmental strategic planning, community action, and social marketing. The initiative has been developed on a volunteer basis, and the material is available as shareware.
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