This interview is part of the FCM–ICLEI series, PCP’s Local Climate Change Heroes, which features PCP program members.
As the Environmental Coordinator managing the newly created Office of Sustainability at the City of Winnipeg, Lindsay Mierau has led Winnipeg’s climate change portfolio for four years, including the development of the City’s climate action plan (Winnipeg's Climate Action Plan: Planning for Climate Change. Acting for People.) and implementation of the overall sustainability strategy (A Sustainable Winnipeg). She has worked in diverse areas such as policy analysis, green buildings, waste reduction, and sustainable procurement.
For Lindsay, it is always amazing to hear from Winnipeggers about their vision, enthusiasm and ideas for climate action, and how they recognize its connection to quality of life. She believes that working toward a low-carbon future is a great opportunity to engage the community and build collaborative relationships.
Lindsay Mierau speaking at the kick-off event for the public engagement stage of the Winnipeg Climate Action Plan development.
Question: What is your motivation for doing the work you do?
Answer: I grew up along the river valley. I was surrounded by an abundance of forests and wildlife. Being surrounded by nature in my childhood shaped my value system and motivated my work here at the City, to build an urban setting that incorporates and protects the natural environment. I want to ensure this connection to nature is not lost for future generations growing up in the city. This imperative for oases from the concrete jungle needs to be balanced by the need to make room for increasing numbers of people moving to Winnipeg each year. I want to help create that mosaic where complete and densely populated communities are intermingled with high-walkability and bike friendly streets, so people are not isolated in cars and there is still room to connect with nature and learn about where our food comes from.
It is also important to recognize both the psychological value of green infrastructure and its physical value for climate adaptation. The increasing number of extreme weather events makes us realize that we should not take ecological goods and services for granted. For example, planting trees or preserving wetlands can not only enhance the mental well-being of people, but also reduce the impact of heat waves and the energy demand on buildings.
Question: What is one of the most challenging aspects of your work and how have you dealt with it?
Answer: It can sometimes be a challenge to communicate the return on investment (ROI) and benefits of sustainability projects. People often think that sustainability projects cost more money, but a lot of environmental projects can be smart investments. We are figuring out the ways to share successes between cities and are gathering experience through pilot projects and investing in tools that will provide us with the relevant data to back up business cases.
Question: What does the future hold for climate change in the City of Winnipeg?
Answer: We established the Office of Sustainability in 2018 and currently have three dedicated staff for climate change work. We recently passed our first climate action plan with a GHG reduction target of 20 per cent below 2011 levels by 2030, and 80 per cent reduction by 2050, with implementation strategies for 140 short and longer term actions in sectors such as transportation, buildings, and waste. The Office of Sustainability is also responsible for spearheading the corporate waste reduction strategy which targets waste reduction in different facility categories such as corporate offices, yards and green space and leading by example in green buildings.
We also support other departments to advance their sustainability projects. For instance, the Fleet Management Agency is testing electric cars and installing Level 3 fast-charging stations. I can see a future for the City of Winnipeg with all departments taking on more low carbon projects and gaining ownership over sustainability projects to help build momentum on our climate targets and sustainability goals.
Lindsay can tell you about her experience in:
Climate change policies and planning
Building connections with community stakeholders and environmental working groups
Piloting different waste strategies
Office of Sustainability
City of Winnipeg, MB
Photo credits: City of Winnipeg.