Cities and Climate Change Science Conference Reflection

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Last week, delegates from all around the world gathered for the inaugural Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton. The conference was jam-packed with international speakers who are continuing the important conversation of climate change realities, their research, what resilience looks like, and how we can move forward.

We heard about the science behind climate change science from Katharine Hayhoe, a leading climate scientist, and how to better communicate about climate change from George Marshall, a climate change communication specialist. In other sessions, we heard youth perspectives on climate change and what Edmonton is doing now to lower our impact, and we heard from a panel including Alberta and Federal Ministers of Environment and Climate Change, on challenges, approaches, and solutions.

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As we listened to all of these sessions, we reflected on how EALT’s work of conserving nature does and can mitigate climate change, as well as help us to adapt to it. A statement that continues to resonate for us, was from George Marshall who said that people are very cautious about changing rural areas or landscapes, but are more likely to support changes in cities when it comes to climate change mitigation, and that increasing green space is part of the narrative of a low carbon city. This was encouraging to hear, because we already know that to mitigate climate change we need to value and conserve those natural areas we have at present. Certainly, EALT works hard to do this.

Five years ago, we had already researched and published a summary of how natural areas mitigate climate change, in our fact sheet: Natural Areas Mitigate Climate Change.

Here are a couple highlights from the this:

  • Natural areas act as a carbon sink.

  • Natural areas hold, and recharge groundwater.

  • Natural areas absorb rain water and regulate flooding by acting as a sponge.

  • Natural areas prevent erosion and siltation.

  • We can use nature’s processes to plan nature-based infrastructure in our cities.

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This sentiment was echoed during the session about Youth Perspectives on Climate Change. One of the presenters talked about resiliency and how cities need to value our ecosystems more because they provide so many ecosystem services. By conserving them, we remove the need for expensive engineering solutions and increase our city's resiliency. Again, this was encouraging to hear, and echoes our research. In the past we have been happy to correspond with Mayor Iveson and Councillors on such topics, and in 2010 we sent the UN Habitat report on Planning Sustainable Cities, in which there is an entire chapter devoted to the need to bridge the divide between the Green and Brown Agendas of Cities:

  • Green infrastructure relates to our natural systems and other ecological services;

  • Brown infrastructure is the waste, energy, transport, buildings and other human systems also required for liveable communities.

The need to bridge these Green and Brown Agendas seems more imperative than ever, for truly healthy, sustainable cities.

We all need to focus on the need for conservation of those green spaces we have, as it is often the Brown Agenda which gets the most attention.   Why not take some time out of your day to immerse yourself in nature and learn how you can contribute to conservation of natural areas in the Edmonton region?