In big cities across Canada, the leaders of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) network and its founders are finding new ways to address climate change by breaking down barriers to implement and scale up low carbon solutions, and to support their cities in reaching their climate change targets.

Municipalities are at the leading edge of developing and implementing climate change solutions to reduce greenhouse gases, build resilient communities, improve the quality of life of their citizens, and much more. Each LC3 Centre will focus on addressing the unique needs of their local communities, such as:

  • investing in ways to reduce emissions from buildings;
  • taking advantage of urban renewable energy opportunities;
  • implementing transportation solutions; and
  • finding new ways to decarbonize fossil fuels.

In this article series, we focus on getting to know the pioneers of the LC3 network.

Read on to learn how they have supported the vision and inception of the LC3 network, are finding new ways to address climate change in big cities, and get a glimpse of their plans to support Canada as we strive to reach our 2030 and 2050 climate targets.

Eric St-Pierre: Helping lead and expand the climate change conversation
Headshot of Eric St-Pierre. Photo by Alex Tran Photography
Eric St-Pierre, Executive Director, Trottier Family Foundation

Eric St-Pierre has played a key role in helping set up the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) network.

LC3 – a partnership years in the making between six non-profit organizations and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities– is funded by the Government of Canada. It all began in 2016, when St-Pierre vividly remembers meeting The Atmospheric Fund’s (TAF) CEO Julia Langer at an event in Toronto.

“It was within my first six months at the Trottier Family Foundation,” says St-Pierre, who had joined the Foundation as Executive Director. “I was learning about TAF at an event and kept thinking: ‘What a wonderful model.’ I was really excited to look into Montreal’s atmospheric fund, until I realized there wasn’t one in our city.”

St-Pierre decided to be proactive – he engaged with an energy consulting company and continued to meet with Langer and her team to research ways to create a model similar to TAF’s in the Montreal region.

“At the time, I was just thinking about Montreal and wasn't really thinking about national outreach,” he says. “But Julia, her team and I continued the conversation about doing this across Canada.”

The partnership developed further in 2017 through a national consultation led by TAF and funded by the Clean Economy Fund and the Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners, to consider how to strengthen the capacity of Canadian cities to scale-up urban climate solutions. This ultimately led to the creation of what we know as the LC3 network today – a model where each LC3 Centre will receive an endowment enabling it to invest in demonstrating, de-risking and scaling up local solutions to climate change to meet Canada’s 2030 and 2050 carbon reduction targets.

The Trottier Family Foundation was equally instrumental in the creation of Montreal’s newly created LC3 Centre, the Greater Montreal Climate Fund (GMCF), and the Network itself. From grants towards the consultation process, legal and communication expenses, to government relations, in-kind support, and start-up costs for the GMCF, St-Pierre and his team have spent countless hours and grants since 2016 to make this initiative a reality.

From his perspective, he says that working with other LC3 Centres will be highly beneficial to the Foundation and its climate change work in Montreal. “I'm hoping to learn what other Centres are doing, and bring some of our work to the table,” he says. “For example, it would be great to establish a program in Montreal that is focused on building retrofits and energy-efficiency projects, and then share that with other LC3 Centres, so they can implement their own programs in their communities.”

St-Pierre is also looking forward to building on network-wide opportunities and sharing his Foundation’s experience and ideas with LC3. “Montreal has a really rich ecosystem in the finance world and in the environmental community, and we'll be able to draw quite a lot from our experience here,” he says. “I think LC3 is a great project and we're really excited to reflect on our Year One activities with the Network!”

St-Pierre also continues to work with the Network in his capacity as board member of the LC3 Executive Board.

The Trottier Family Foundation is a Montreal-based private Canadian charitable foundation. Founded in 2000, the Foundation’s mission is to support organizations that work towards the advancement of scientific inquiry, the promotion of education, fostering better health, protecting the environment and mitigating climate change.

Photo by Alex Tran Photography.

Julia Langer: Leading the way for urban climate solutions in Toronto
Headshot of Julia Langer. Photo courtesy of WWF Canada and Bill Ivy.
Julia Langer, Chief Executive Officer, The Atmospheric Fund

Julia Langer’s passion for the environment spans more than three decades, from the time she wanted to become a marine biologist, to when she was inspired by her parents during the Don River clean ups in Toronto.

Since then, she has held senior leadership positions in the environmental sector, managing campaigns and organizations, defining strategy and policy, and inspiring public and private action to address air pollution and climate change in her community.

Her most recent role is CEO of The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a position she has held since 2009.

“TAF’s mandate is to advance locally relevant solutions to climate change in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” she says. “There's no one way to achieve that objective – you often need a combination tools. So, we are a grant maker, an investor, an advocate, and a convener.”

Langer’s creative thinking and big ambitions on climate change and TAF’s successes, led to the inception of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) network, modelled on TAF’s trajectory. “TAF was established by the City of Toronto in 1991 before climate change was headline news,” says Langer. “It was about local action, which is what we need in urban areas across the country. We incubated the idea to co-develop the model and what emerged was a proposal for what would later become the LC3 network.”

Since these initial conversations in 2017, the LC3 network has become a partnership between TAF, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and five other organizations (including seven cities) in major urban areas across Canada. Each organization, as of January 2021, has received or is in the process of receiving an endowment from the Government of Canada to establish their own, local LC3 Centre. Each Centre will invest in and fund grant programs to address their respective city’s climate change goals and create benefits for members in their communities.

Langer says she is really looking forward to the LC3 idea exchange. “The exciting piece is to be able to share knowledge and make our capacity go further,” she says. “We are looking forward to collaboration opportunities on impact investing and co-granting. One perfect example would be working toward a federal zero emissions vehicle mandate: when you see what that mandate would do in terms of urban carbon emission reduction, it's huge. But it is going to take a fair amount of effort to move that forward and get to implementation. And so, working together might be the best way to move the dial. In fact, I think one of the reasons the LC3 concept will work very well is that all stakeholders have a solid experience of working in networks and in a collaborative environment. There is a commitment to using those skills and that approach to further our work.”

Founded in 1991, The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is a non-profit agency that finances local initiatives to combat climate change and improve air quality in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, which includes investing in low-carbon solutions and scaling them up for broad implementation. TAF’s mandate and the LC3 mandate are synonymous and form the basis upon which the other LC3 Centres are created.

Photo courtesy of WWF Canada and Bill Ivy. 

Vincent Moreau: Article coming soon

Melina Scholefield: Article coming soon

Mike Mellross: Advancing climate action in the Prairies
Headshot of Mike Mellross. Courtesy of Mike Mellross.
Mike Mellross, Program Director, Climate Innovation Fund

As the new Program Director for the Climate Innovation Fund (CIF), Mike Mellross recognizes that Alberta’s Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Centres will have some interesting challenges to overcome and opportunities to nurture in the near future.

“We are grateful for the hard work of the people in the oil and gas industry who have provided many benefits for Alberta and Canada,” he says. “We know we are builders and have so many capacities for innovation. So, we need to support our economy’s transformation and help achieve the deep emissions targets that will lead us to a low carbon future. Leaders in all sectors are very willing to look at new business models and new energy systems, and work towards carbon neutrality as a goal. It's all about how we get there together!”

Hosted by the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation (AEF), CIF’s endowments from the federal government support two Centres: one in Calgary and one in Edmonton. Though working under one banner, each Centre will focus on the unique challenges and opportunities of their respective city, and will have their own distinct funds, grant program, projects, initiatives, and more. They join the other LC3 Centres in the network, led by five other organizations in cities across the country and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“CIF is ambitious!” says Mellross. “I think it will be critical to take our lead from the cities themselves. They have developed robust local climate plans with frameworks and pathways for success. The LC3 network is a great platform for sharing best practices and ideas – we are all very supportive [and excited about] doing that.”

Mellross is excited to build on the operational strengths of AEF, and of an already active climate action ecosystem in Alberta. “We must be very catalytic in our actions,” he says about his future plans to foster innovative climate action in both cities. “We need to look for opportunities that are going to leapfrog rather than base our solutions on incremental [progress]. Solutions that are equally beneficial to the environment, the economy, and the people in our communities.”

Over his 30-year career, Mellross has worked for various private enterprises, with a focus on consulting, engineering, and wildlife management.

He has also worked for the City of Edmonton where he initiated the procurement plan to purchase 100% green electricity for all city operations, managed the City’s climate change office, as well as developed the energy transition strategy and renewable energy programs.

Alberta Ecotrust Foundation is guided by a vision of healthy ecosystems for all Albertans. Our mission is to inspire and mobilize those who champion and protect the environment. Through grantmaking, coordinated action and tireless collaboration, Alberta Ecotrust activates our shared sense of responsibility to cultivate a healthier society and natural environment.

Photo courtesy of Alberta Ecotrust Foundation.

New Halifax Climate Investment, Innovation and Impact (HCi3) Fund leader coming soon

Steve Winkelman: Diversity and inclusion should be central to climate change policy
Headshot of Steve Winkelman. Photo credit: Tim Chin
Steve Winkelman, Executive Director, Ottawa Climate Action Fund.

As the new Executive Director of the Ottawa Climate Action Fund (OCAF) – Ottawa’s Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Centre – Steve Winkelman is looking forward to bridging silos across sectors, agencies and organizations to advance holistic, lasting solutions in the Nation’s capital.

Working to accelerate Ottawa’s transition to an equitable, carbon-neutral future, the Fund is being incubated by the Ottawa Community Foundation, a charitable non-profit organization working to drive positive, systemic, and sustainable change in multiple areas, including housing, education, food security, as well as environmental and other social issues.

“LC3 presents a huge opportunity considering what the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF) already does in our community,” says Winkelman who has 30 years of experience in supporting senior government officials across the globe on climate change policy, projects and finance, sustainable transportation, urban planning, clean energy, and clean air. “We can complement and leverage each other’s efforts and resources and bring the conversation to other investors and actors. It's a great platform.”

He is also excited about tapping into the LC3 network and the committed climate action leaders across Canada. “I'm hoping that OCAF’s model of partnerships with the philanthropic, private and public sectors can be shared across LC3, including advancing synergies among housing, transport, land use, and environmental policies,” he says.

Winkelman adds that members of the Network have already started sharing best practices. “If we each copy a really successful program from another Centre, we are going to make good progress, and since the whole LC3 program is being supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the opportunities for learning and alignment are huge,” he says. “The real challenge and opportunity will be to determine how we scale up the important work of implementing and replicating things at the project level. When do we start to affect markets, institutions and systems? We must pursue our bold long-term vision while generating tangible, short-term benefits.”

Diversity and equity will play an important role in this work. “In the context of working within a community foundation, we have identified the need for improved collaborative capacity among leaders in climate change and leaders in social inclusion,” he explains. “These communities do not necessarily know each other that well. The pandemic has highlighted many fault lines in our society, including racial discrimination, and unequal access to resources and services. The climate emergency requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. That means that everyone is at the table, working together to shape the low-carbon solutions that all community groups will benefit from.”

The Ottawa Climate Action Fund (OCAF) is a program being incubated by the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF), a philanthropic organization that works with donors and the community at large to bring about positive, systemic, and sustainable change. The Foundation continues to build on its astute financial management, high-quality donor services, strategic grantmaking and innovative partnerships.

Image courtesy of Tim Chin. 

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