Community action for a better future
500 Cool Communities by 2020
There are over 5,000 communities across Canada. What if we helped them to organize for climate action?
We need to reach 36 million people across Canada and help them become part of Canada's commitment to climate action. We need to help them act in ways that help them improve their lives -- by saving money, coping with extreme weather, adapting to climate change, creating local jobs, improving their quality of life.
One of the best ways to connect with people is through our communities and the groups we belong to, but there is very little support for community planning and action. It's the missing link in Canada's climate plans.
It's time we organize our communities and harness the power and potential of community groups and volunteers in helping Canada shift to a low-carbon future.
Cool Communities are communities that are organized and ready to act. They will have the following five elements:
- a lead green group
- a community network of local groups
- a community climate action plan connecting climate action with community needs and opportunities
- community engagement, including public workshops, public awareness, and promoting climate solutions and incentives
- community projects, including energy conservation, community power, active transportation, local food, extreme weather planning and complete community planning
Cool Communities are able to promote climate solutions that make sense for their community - matching climate action with social benefit.
Progress to Date
So how are we doing so far?
- There is a tremendous amount of activity to organize communities to lobby for government action, but very little to organize communities as partners in climate action.
- There are over 300 municipalities participating in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Partners for Climate Protection program. These municipalities have, or are developing, climate action plans that focus on municipal action. Community consultation (seeking public advice) has been a big part of these plans, but community action (engaging communities as active partners) is a much smaller component.
- There are some excellent and longstanding programs and groups that support community action, and that's where we find most of Canada's "cool communities".
We hope these numbers will change as more municipalities and communities become aware of the value of a community network and a community climate action plan, and as governments and funders integrate community organizing into their climate campaigns and plans.
Number of "cool" communities across Canada:
Canada's Cool Communities
Looking for examples of a Cool Community?
Community organizing is nothing new (our twist is to focus on a community network and the co-benefits of climate action). Here are some other organizations and models you can connect with and that can also adopt a Cool Community approach.
Transition Towns is a global movement of community-led initiatives to organize and support the transition to a sustainable future. They start with a group of citizens coming together to form a Transition Town, and then grow from there to build working groups and networks around issues of interest. There are a number of Transition Towns across Canada. Transition Guelph is great example of how well they can support local groups and initiatives.
Green Neighbours is a fast growing network of ward-based neighbourhood green groups in Toronto. The two oldest. Green 13 and Green Neighbours 21 have been active as volunteer community groups for years, raising awareness and collaborating on community projects.
Climate Action Canada is helping setting up a green neighbours group in the community of Parkdale in Toronto as a pilot for the revised Guide to Organizing a Community (below). See the Green Parkdale website for information.
Healthy Communities The healthy communities model was started in the 1980s as a multi-sector, integrated approach to solving environmental, social, economic, and health issues at the community level. Four provincial networks now exist (Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition,BC Healthy Communities,Réseau québécois de Villes et Villages en santé, Mouvement Acadien des Communautés en Santé du Nouveau-Brunswick) as well as a national network.
Other Community Models
Climate Action Waterloo Region
ClimateActionWR is a collaboration between local organizations and community members focused on climate change mitigation, and is led by Sustainable Waterloo Region and REEP Green Solutions (a Green Community). It coordinates efforts to implement the Cimate Action Plan for Waterloo Region. This is one of the best examples of collaboration between local government, business, and organizations in promoting climate action at the community level.
Press for government leadership
Ask your Councillor, MPP, and MP if there is funding for community organizing in their climate plan - assuming they have a climate plan! Tell them you would like to see a community organizing fund that would offer up to $40,000 for setting up a community network, drafting a community climate action plan, and raising community awareness about the opportunities for climate action.
Are you ready to organize?
The guide takes you through the six basic steps to organizing a community:
There are many other local groups in the community, and most of them will share an interest in climate action. A Cool Community brings them together to create a common plan and to support each other's ideas and activities.
Looking for Project Ideas?
We've got 50+ Ideas and links for community climate projects: