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. 

Marie-Claude Bourgie: Filling a critical role to reach climate change goals in Montreal

Headshot of Marie-Claude Bourgie. Photo by Alex Tran Photography.
Marie-Claude Bourgie, Executive Director, Greater Montreal Climate Fund

Marie-Claude Bourgie’s work is a diverse weave of international and national work, from developing comprehensive programs based on British Columbia’s forest management policies, to advising governments in developing countries on how to implement financial models to address environmental challenges.

“I remember when I finished my degree in environmental geography, somebody asked me: ‘Are you going to be an environmentalist or are you going to work for a living?’” she says. “It is refreshing to see how the climate action sector, as well as public acknowledgement of the importance of climate action, have evolved. It makes me really hopeful and optimistic for the future.”

This passion has led her to The Greater Montreal Climate Fund (GMCF), the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Centre in Quebec. “One day, I came across this fantastic opportunity,” says Bourgie, now GMCF’s Executive Director. “[The Fund is] sort of the culmination of my career.”

The Fund’s vision aligns with the City of Montreal’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, and Bourgie sees GMCF’s role as catalytic to the city’s climate action plan. “I believe that the emissions reduction targets are too big to be solved by philanthropy or public money alone. Our emissions reduction targets are very ambitious, so we need to have all the forces in the ecosystem engaged.” One of the Fund’s recent initiatives is taking on a leadership role in The Montreal Climate Partnership, an initiative which brings together economic, community, philanthropic and institutional organizations in the Montreal area recognized for their level of commitment to climate issues and their capacity to influence change.

As each LC3 Centre is structured differently to meet local needs, Bourgie is excited to take on the challenge of finding her place within the Montreal community. “How can we break down barriers, push solutions, provide the support to help the initiative go to scale? I really feel that is our mandate. We have great opportunities namely to electrify transport in Quebec because our electricity is mostly hydro- – and our Fund can create new models for this.”

She is also eager about the opportunities with LC3. “It has a very interesting structure. Though we all have regional mandates, we will be able to come together as a Network to share ideas and solutions with our peers.” Bourgie also credits The Atmospheric Fund, on which LC3 is based, as a great mentor for each LC3 Centre across the country due to its 30 years of success. “Businesses often hide ‘the secret ingredient’ once they discover it, but our goal is to scale up and the only way to do that is by sharing resources, models and lessons learned, she says. “We are more powerful together.”

The Greater Montreal Climate Fund (GMCF) is a non-profit (seeking charitable status) founded in 2020 and is a newly created LC3 Centre supporting the Region of Montreal, which includes both the City of Montreal and the Metropolitan Community of Montreal.

Photo by Alex Tran Photography. 

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.

Sarah Buckle: Expanding innovation and impact in Halifax

Headshot of Sarah Buckle
Sarah Buckle, Executive Director and Chief Climate Investment Officer

Nearly 20 years ago, Sarah Buckle’s career in sustainability began in Halifax, and you could say it has come full circle since joining the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) network in April 2021.

After working in Ontario and British Columbia, she has returned to the region, where she was appointed the Executive Director and Chief Climate Investment Officer of the Halifax Climate Investment, Innovation and Impact (HCi3) Fund. HCi3 is one of six non-profit organizations supporting seven Centres that make up the LC3 network, in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Green Municipal Fund.

A subsidiary of EfficiencyOne (which provides cost-effective electricity efficiency and conservation services in Nova Scotia), HCi3 will help Halifax reach its full emissions reduction potential and unlock co-benefits for local communities.

Buckle is looking forward to leading HCi3 and working with the other LC3 Centres. “I think the partnership with FCM, and the other Centres across Canada is a huge opportunity to create change and share cross learnings,” she says. “We can work at the local level, but also on national projects together. Common areas of focus could include large-scale multi-unit residential building energy retrofits, as well as electric vehicles on the charging infrastructure side. There is also an opportunity for all LC3 Centres to work closely with local community members and perhaps groups that do not see a direct connection between climate action and their role in it. Equity and accessibility will play an important role here.”

She adds that, ultimately, HCi3 will focus on investment in innovation. “A key area of focus will be to begin embedding HCi3 in Halifax and the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). The municipality has a very ambitious climate action plan, HalifACT– which puts forward a path to a 75 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. HCi3 will support the region’s efforts as they work towards achieving these targets.”

Buckle’s diverse career and interest in the environmental and sustainability sectors will help her as she moves forward with this goal. Prior to joining the LC3 network, Buckle worked as the director of enterprise sustainability with Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority, TransLink. In that role, she was responsible for leading the climate action plan and low-carbon fleet strategies, the carbon credit program and development of TransLink’s green bond program. She adds that “environmental protection was always really important to me. I remember my dad wanting to charge my siblings and I 25 cents every time we left the lights on. I grew up in a remote community, accessible only by ferry, so I was taught about conservation at a young age. When I decided to study environmental science, it wasn't even a question – it was just part of who I am.”

The Halifax Climate Investment, Innovation and Impact (HCi3) Fund is helping Halifax reach its full emissions reduction potential and unlocking co-benefits for local communities. The Fund will use a mix of financial grants and endowment investments to accelerate projects that will result in greenhouse gas reductions, other environmental improvements, community benefits and the leveraging or mobilizing of private capital.

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. 

Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) supports cities and communities in reaching their carbon emissions reduction potential. This initiative, implemented in partnership among seven local centres and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), was established through an endowment from the Government of Canada.

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