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Woman of the Week: Ingrid Thompson

Ingrid Thompson combines the practical love of science with passion for the environment. As the newly anointed Chief Executive Officer at Pollution Probe, one of the oldest environmental charities in Canada, she brings over 20 years of real-world experience into the boardroom.

“One of my quirks is I have a certain amount of appreciation for the geekiness of science and the complexity of information,” Thompson says. “Energy is very important for building the type of societies we want, but if you sacrifice the environmental part, we aren’t getting very far ahead.”

Thompson began her career as press secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Norm Sterling, in 1996. She briefly left to take on a role as a Senior Consultant for National Public Relations and returned in 2000 as Chief of Staff for the new Minister of the Environment, Dan Newman. During her tenure with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, she had to deal with the Walkerton E-Coli outbreak, one of the biggest environmental crises in Ontario’s history.

“It was one of the bigger crisis experiences.  On the May long weekend, a bunch of people showed up at doctor’s offices complaining of intestinal issues,” Thompson says. “They were noticing that there was a cluster of sick people and that it could be an E.coli infection. Eventually it became clear that the water was the source of the infection. Six people died and thousands got seriously sick.”

Thompson was very involved with the Walkerton Crisis, calling water supply companies to bring clean water to residents and attending town hall meetings in Walkerton, among other things. She also helped the environmental minister reconfigure the water administration. Thompson said the experience was a test for the minister and his staff, who were elected into cabinet barely two months before the Walkerton catastrophe struck.

After 2001, Thompson became the Director of Communications and Marketing for a government relations group invested in energy, the environment and infrastructure law practice, and was a subsidiary of the law firm, CMS Cameron McKenna. From there, Thompson played a leading role in a cellphone company called Vodafone in Prague, and moved back to Canada briefly to do environmental consulting.

“I met a Dutch marine on the beach and that screwed up everything. I met my fiancé and decided to hit a reset button on my career.” Thompson took a job across the ocean as an Independent Consultant at Thompson Marcom in the Netherlands for the next six years. In October 2016, she returned to Canada and accepted the role as the Chief Executive Officer for Pollution Probe.

Thompson emphasizes that Pollution Probe takes a unique approach to environmentalism and works with oil companies and not against them. “We are a pragmatic, science-based company. We don’t take the view of putting all oil and gas companies in an automatic black hat and we choose not to do that,” Thompson says. “If you work directly for an environmental solution, we would rather work with companies than fight them. We work with a lot of companies, including Shell. They are pushing for the decarbonisation of the economy.”

After 20 years in the environmental and energy sectors and amassing an extensive amount of job experience, what does Thompson believe is the single most pressing environmental problem affecting the world today?

She didn’t skip a beat before responding, “Climate change.” Thompson explains it is imperative greenhouse gases be managed by finding credible and reasonable solutions through networking.

Supporting women in the environmental and energy sectors is also an issue close to Thompson’s heart. “Twenty years ago when I was a young consultant at a PR firm, I used to bring an older vice president along with meetings with me because my clients were unfortunately middle-aged white guys,” she says. “In order for me to be comfortable, I felt I needed to bring a ‘beard’ to my meetings. It is important to make a point of supporting strong smart women and connecting with them.”

Recently, the Pollution Probe Annual Gala  ‘Generation Now’, focused on youth engagement and innovation in the environmental sector. The event also included awards that were given to two young women named , Eden Full Goh for creating a solar panel from a gravity powered clock, and Nivatha Balendra, for discovering a bacteria that can digest oil spills. “I was so thrilled to be able to support our awards program because it happened to result in two young women being the ones selected for incredibly impressive accomplishments,” Thompson says. “They were both incredibly intelligent and as women tend to do, they also had a sense of humility.”

In her spare time, Thompson enjoys knitting and scuba diving — things she finds to be meditative and peaceful. Pollution Probe has a bright future with the energy and environmental veteran who is leading the way towards the hopeful decarbonisation of the Canadian economy.

Check out this amazing Hydrogen fuel cell train

From the first train to carry goods across Canada to the creation of a railroad system that allows people to travel across the city quickly, the train has done it yet again — they have embraced the modern green energy movement.

Alstom, a French manufacturer, has introduced the hydrogen powered passenger rail train known as the Coradia iLint. The train will launch in December 2017 in Germany and run a 60 km link from Buxtehude, located just outside of Hamburg, to Cuxhaven.  The project is intended to provide a green alternative to remote areas where electrified trains would be difficult to put in.

How does this work? Hydrogen is stored at the top of the train and is combined with oxygen to produce electricity. That energy is then converted using fuel cells, which charges batteries stored below the train. This creates electricity to run the train. Additionally, extra unused energy is stored in lithium batteries and allows the train to be more efficient because it doesn’t have any waste energy. The train will carry up to 300 passengers and can run at 140 miles per hour for an 800 km stretch.

The train was created by French, German, and Canadian technologies. The Canadian company, Hydrogenics, provided the fuel cell that would run the train. Hydrogenics is invested in creating hydrogen fuel cells that could help run clean energy through a variety of transportation options including electric vehicles. The company is also invested in fuel cell installations for freestanding electrical power plants.

The new hydro train is an alternative to electrified trains, another popular green energy option in transit where electrification is hard to reach. The train is considered carbon neutral because it takes hydrogen already in the environment and re-uses it. Though electrification doesn’t have any carbon output, hydrogen fuel cells are able to provide more flexibility in hard-to-reach places because they don’t require a lot of infrastructure to build, a common issue on train routes. The hydro train is a welcome example of a type of transportation that can be adopted in Canada to cut costs from new carbon tax measures that will be implemented under the liberal government next year.

Hydrogen fuel cells are the way of the future and provide a more productive use of the energy potential of the chemical. Hydro trains are ground-breaking and provide alternatives to diesel run trains, which are still the main form of transport for CN Rail in Canada. Transportation can be green and the Coradia iLint is the way of the future for trains.

How to stuff the perfect vegan stocking

Making a stocking for a vegan can be a new experience for family members who aren’t familiar with the most animal-friendly treats out there. Where do you get vegan chocolate? Are there some items that aren’t environmentally-friendly you should stay away from? Women’s Post is here to help. May I present: the dream stocking that is vegan, eco-friendly, and delicious to boot.

Most stocking stuffers can be found at a local grocery store with ample organics options. Loblaws is a great option and alternatively, any community food store like Whole Foods will work as well. The first thing to look for is your food and dessert alternatives. Vegan protein packs, such as the sample or sample size of Vega One will fit in the stocking and provides a delicious protein supplement. Chocolate is a must-have and vegan chocolate options are fairly easy to track down. Endangered Species has many dairy-free chocolates, including coconut-filled crèmes and sea salt. These dark chocolate bars also donate a portion of the proceeds to a wildlife conservation network, which makes this vegan dessert a double-hitter! Cleo’s peanut butter cups taste exactly like Reese’s and are available in several stores.

Protein filled nibbles can also be put in stockings, like roasted chickpeas. They come in various flavours and spices. Maybe try some nut mixes, as long as there isn’t an allergy in the house. Pistachios are a delectable treat and are expensive to buy regularly, so they make a great gift during the holidays. Magic Vegan Bacon Grease is also a treat that cannot be purchased regularly, but is a necessary indulgence for vegans everywhere. The magic mix is a coconut oil sauce that has a natural smoky taste. It can be added to tofu scrambles, greens, and beans. Finally, a gift certificate to a Whole Foods market, a community market, or a popular vegan restaurant can go a long way.

For stocking stuffers not related to food, cruelty-free cosmetics and lotions are a great option. Rocky Mountain soaps has cruelty-free soaps, lip balms and lotions that are affordable. Lush is also a cruelty-free advocate and their bath balms fizz and smell heavenly. Many vegans will make their own cleaners and beauty supplies using Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which can used to make hand soap, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent and cleaner — why not give them a head start by placing a tiny bit in their stocking? For something a bit different, try purchasing a reusable tote bag. They are cheap, and you can’t have too many of them.

Don’t forget to add vegan stickers, patches and pins because love for the animals and the environment is normally accompanied by a desire to publicly advocate on behalf of beings that can’t speak for themselves. Any small books and pamphlets that provide more information for environmental groups and any donations to non-profits that advocate for the environment, climate change and animal rights are a quick last-minute addition as well.

Whether it be desserts, snacks, cruelty-free cosmetics or vegan decorations, there are many sustainable stocking stuffers that don’t need to come from animals or wasteful products. Instead, go for the eco-alternatives and feel good about the stocking stuffers you purchase from local companies that are looking to make a difference. Hopefully this, vegan stocking stuffer guide gave you some great ideas for a different kind of gift, one that helps animals worldwide and keeps your vegan family member warm and full on Christmas day.

Premiers sign groundbreaking national climate change strategy

Ontario is proving to be a leader in climate change, and that continues with the signing the federal agreement pushing for a carbon tax, known as the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Under this agreement, every province must produce a carbon tax framework, and Ontario’s cap and trade agreement makes it one of the best prepared to begin cutting greenhouse emissions right away.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the other Premiers of Canada at the First Ministers’ Meeting in Ottawa last week and every province signed the agreement except Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The carbon tax framework will help provinces to meet this goal and unifies the country in trying to actually make efforts to stop climate change.

Ontario is prepared for the federal carbon tax mandate because of aggressive targets set by Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. The cap and trade program will force high polluters to lower their emissions or pay large penalties on their carbon usage. The program has come under criticism though due to the uncertainty of how much profit cap and trade will make. It is difficult to estimate how much the credits will cost and if there will be a high need for them, but Ontario can learn from cap and trade partners in Quebec and California who have already implemented the program.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is opposed to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and is concerned as to what will happen to climate change agreements in the United States when President Donald Trump comes into power. Trudeau responded to these concerns by emphasizing that Canadian climate change policies exist outside of American interests. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was also opposed to the agreement and switched focus to healthcare funding throughout the meeting.

The federal government is moving forward with setting climate change goals and is leading the provinces into taking responsibility for carbon emissions. Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be forced to follow the carbon tax guidelines despite not signing, and Wall has hinted to the media that he may try to take the issue to court.

This Pan-Canadian Framework is a historic decision on the part of Canada and demonstrates the country’s unified front against climate change. Despite certain opinions in the First Minister’s Meeting, the premiers are moving forward with implementing a carbon tax and Canada’s commitments to the Paris Conference goals will hopefully be met. It will be interesting to see how each province decides to legislate their carbon tax and the success rate of each strategy.

Stay tuned climate change fanatics — it is going to get a lot more exciting from here.

Ontario is gearing up for groundbreaking cap and trade project

Ontario has been working hard to prepare for cap and trade, an environmental initiative that will put a cap on greenhouse emissions and help high polluters to lower their carbon levels.

The program will lower greenhouse gas emissions substantially and will help Ontario reach its climate goals to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and up to 80 per cent by 2050. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has been ramping up in preparation of the ground-breaking environmental program in Ontario, with three officers of the legislature releasing detailed reports on the cap and trade program over the last few weeks. This included the Environmental Commissioner on Nov. 22, the Financial Accountability Officer on Nov. 23, and the Auditor General on Nov. 30. The Ontario government is clearly demonstrating transparency and public awareness of the many positive aspects that involve the cap and trade program.

On Nov. 16, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray also met with Quebec Premier Philip Couillard and Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection for California, at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco. The three leaders discussed their plan to link the cap and trade programs across international boundaries. Ontario plans to link the cap and trade program to Quebec and California by 2018, which will help the new green economy flourish with increased opportunities for competition. Nova Scotia recently announced it is planning to start a cap and trade program as well.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe, mentioned the partnership in her report and commends its positive aspects: “The key purpose of linking is to reduce compliance costs for Ontario emitters. Linking reduces compliance costs in two main ways: Creating a bigger, more liquid market for allowances; and giving Ontario emitters access to lower cost allowances from other jurisdictions.”

Cap and trade is a a large undertaking for Ontario, but increasingly crucial in our climate-based economy. The program forces large polluters to cut down on greenhouse gases or contribute to provincial revenue through carbon credits. Alternatively, if a company lowers their emissions, they can make money by selling their extra credits. The program is expected to make $478 million in its first year, and will generate 1.8 to 1.9 billion in the following years until December 2020. The funds will be directed towards green initiatives such as solar power, energy conservation methods, and battery storage. Either way, both initiatives help the ‘green’ agenda because either a high polluter will help fund green projects or they will lower their carbon emissions.

Cap and trade program will be activated in January 2017.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is leading the way on the climate change agenda, and it is exciting to imagine the significant impact that cap and trade will have on greenhouse emissions in the province.

Is Ontario moving towards clean energy?

What is Ontario’s position on clean energy?

The province has been one of North America’s leaders in clean energy, but lately has been demonstrating that clean energy may be less important than saving a few quick dollars. It appears the province may be advocating for clean energy and climate change initiatives at the same time they are cutting budgets involving green incentives.

Ontario is now launching its third Long-term Energy Plan (LTEP), which will be released in 2017. The various regulations and laws in the Clean Energy Act (originally launched in 2009) is daunting to sort through. Alternatively, the Planning Ontario’s Energy Future lays out the current state of energy in the province today pretty clearly.

The Clean Energy act was closely followed by the LTEP in 2010, and was updated in 2013. The newest version of the LTEP is set to reassess clean energy goals set in The Climate Change Action Plan. Ontario promotes clean energy and when considering electricity, it is growing green. In the report, Ontario specifies that it has approximately 18,000 MW of wind, solar, bioenergy and hydroelectricity on-line or under contract. Ontario electricity production in 2015 consists of 58 per cent nuclear energy, 10 per cent natural gas, 23 per cent water, nine per cent solar/wind/bioenergy and no coal production as of 2014. Clean energy has increased in the last 10 years, but more work is left to be done.

Comparatively, clean fuel is moving much more slowly. Ontario residents use fuel for heating, transportation, electricity generation, and industrial production. It also provides energy for the production of plastics, fertilizers, and chemicals. Currently, natural gas is the leading fuel type at 36 per cent. Wood and biomass is at three per cent, which has only grown two per cent since 2006. Coal is also still used as one per cent of fuel, despite the fact that one of the most unsustainable energy sources and has since been abandoned as a source of electricity in the province.

This is significant because three quarters of homes are heated by natural gas, which is substantially cheaper than electricity. Though electricity is moving in a green direction, fuel distribution still remains as a central energy source. Ontario has set conservation targets for natural gas, but has yet to push Ontarians to move way from relying on this fossil fuel in their homes. It comes down to a question of building the infrastructure to provide renewable energy to homes effectively and efficiently. The infrastructure has been designed to carry natural gas into homes, and it is an expensive but necessary undertaking to move away from fossil fuels entirely.

Instead of tackling how to heat homes using renewable resources, Ontario decided to move in the opposite direction. The government recently decided to suspend the second round of Large Renewable Procurement, which is the green investment funding that supports large renewable energy contracts, which will apparently save taxpayers $3.8 billion in electricity system costs. This stops more renewable projects from going forward, but it will save residents $2.48 on their monthly energy bills. The initiative ultimately prevents more biomass producers from producing fuel, wind and solar from growing further, and keeps some of the less environmentally fuel sources in place.

Ontario has ambitious climate change goals to lower carbon emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 2050. Suspending important renewables contracts and pushing forward natural gas infrastructure is not a promotion of clean energy. Biofuels need to be used to heat homes.  Overall, the province needs to pick a side and stick with it.

Public consultations are being held across the province and online throughout the months of October and November as Ontario reaches out the public to help build energy’s future.

The environment is screwed with Donald Trump as president

If the environment wasn’t under imminent threat before, it most certainly is now that the United States elected Donald Trump as their newest president.

President, Donald Trump (I can’t believe that string of words in now a reality) has proposed to cancel President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and famously claimed in a tweet that climate change was a ‘Chinese Hoax’. Trump’s various claims do not bode well for the planet and its future.

So what does Trump’s presidential win mean for the environment? Essentially, it means that the planet is in peril.

Trump represents an American ideology that focuses solely on the economy at the expense of lowering carbon emissions. At a conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2016, he supported oil fracking and also stated he would minimize the U.S commitments to the Paris Agreement. The U.S is currently the second largest producer of oil and Trump’s agenda to push fossil fuels even more will increase carbon emissions tenfold. He hinted that the failing oil economy can be resolved if the United States exploited the lands that have been previously considered off limits, including the Outer Continental Shelf. He also wants to push more production in the non-renewable energy sector. This would be a short-term solution and would harm the economy, not to mention the environment, in the long term. By over-flooding the energy sector with more oil through fracking, it would further lower the value per barrel of oil and would decimate even more land that is already threatened in the United States.

Trump has publicly stated several times that he would wipe Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a fruit of labour for the democratic president. Within the Clean Power Plan, the environmental protection agency (EPA) gave each state the power to decide for themselves how to lower carbon emissions in power plants by using renewables or nuclear energy instead of carbon pricing. States were supposed to submit plans by 2016-2018 and would start cutting emissions by 2022 at latest. The EPA estimated that the plan would lower power plant emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 as compared to rates in 2005. Trump has claimed he intends to cancel this plan and has vaguely threatened to get rid of the EPA all together. He has not recommended any alternative plans to lower carbon emissions.

The future of the environment in the United States looks dark, but there is hope. Strong environmental advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental advocacy groups in the United States that has been fighting to protect the earth since 1892, are not going to give up.

There are many other groups that are preparing to continue the fight for climate change despite this unwelcome change of leadership in the country.

Trump may surprise his citizens by not canceling environmental agreements, though I won’t be holding my breath. It is a historical and frightening time to be living in such close proximity to a country that has a leader who cares so little about climate change. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We can only hope he was serious about creating clean air and clean water (the only vague environmental commitments he has made), and is willing to see that climate change goals are inextricably linked to providing those very things.

Otherwise, Canada may want to start building that wall.

Carbon tax angers provinces, but Prime Minister stands strong

Canada’s provinces are at an odds with the federal government after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a unilateral mandatory carbon tax that is set to be launched in 2018.

Anger has swept across the country as Trudeau takes decisive steps to enact a climate change plan that will meet Paris Conference targets to cut carbon emissions 30 per cent of levels from 2005. At the federal-provincial climate talks, the Prime Minister announced that Ottawa will impose a levy of a minimum of $10 per tonne of carbon emissions by 2018. That amount will go up $10 annually until 2022, where it will reach its maximum at $50 per tonne. Trudeau has also granted the provincial governments the opportunity to adopt their own cap and trade or carbon tax programs, as long as it meets the required targets. If the provinces don’t meet those standards, then the government will impose the minimum $10 carbon tax themselves.

But, not everyone is thrilled with the carbon tax. The provinces are irate, especially Saskatchewan and Alberta. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reported she would only meet 2022 targets of $50 per tonne if the federal government allows the Kinder Morgan pipeline to be built. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has claimed the decision is a ‘betrayal’ on the part of the federal government to work openly with the provinces. Many westerners have claimed that Trudeau’s unilateral policy directly attacks Western Canada and is reminiscent of his late father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s National Energy Plan.

On the other hand, the plan is being widely criticized by environmentalists for not being strict enough. Many groups feel that $50 a tonne of carbon would not be able to meet the 2030 Paris Conference targets. I guess there is something to be said of finding the middle ground — if no one is happy, it’s probably a good policy.

Trudeau will convene a first minister’s meeting on Dec. 8 to define the details of the climate plan, which will include the carbon tax.

Climate change is a reality and invoking mandatory laws around it is a step in the right direction. The provinces need to be pushed to implement carbon tax incentives and it is necessary for the federal government to make that decision firmly. Hopefully the other changes that will be discussed in the first minister’s meeting will provide even more climate change incentives and Canada can become a leader in ‘green’ change on the international stage.

If only the provinces would jump on board — an environmentally focused and united country could become a reality.

Woman of the Week: Julia Langer, CEO of TAF

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is celebrating its 25th anniversary — and with that milestone comes an opportunity to expand its mandate to include the greater Hamilton area. TAF is an organization that looks for urban solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and while it focuses most of its efforts on Toronto, Julia Langer, CEO of TAF, knows that it’s time to expand.

“It’s about recognizing that opportunities for solving climate change are not limited to the 416.”

A self-described “perennial optimist”, Langer thinks Ontario and Toronto have won a lot of battles on the environmental front, but in the end they may be losing the war.

“It can be solved,” she said in an interview. “[Climate change can] get waylaid with a bunch of things along the way, whether its political will, lack of capital right now, short term versus long term priorities…It’s all about where we work and where we play — making sure that we can live and work in a way that is a low-carbon lifestyle.”

Langer always had an awareness of the environment, as well as a passion for life. When she was 10, her parents would discuss social and environmental issues, often bringing their daughter along with them to clean up Don River and dredge through the garbage. This mentality was passed on to Langer, who developed a keen interest in marine biology.

“I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau the Second,” she said.  However, Langer learned early on that she would most likely end up in a lab, and she was more interested in integrating science and policy. So, she transferred to the University of Toronto and continued her studies in toxicology there.

“Academic and scientific work is super important in highlighting and understanding problems, but it was a bit frustrating that academics don’t do policy reforms,” she said. Her attention was focused on taking information provided by these scientists and experts, and enacting positive change — something she has been able to do rather successfully throughout her illustrious career.

After university, Langer landed a number of summer jobs, including a position in James Bradly’s office, the minister of environment at the time. Her work involved providing policy analysis and advice on files involving toxins, pesticides, and sewage treatments, among other things. She went on to work for Friends of the Earth in Ottawa and was hired by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) working with the toxicology program, where she was eventually promoted to Director of the Cuba EcoRegional Program. She also spearheaded the WWF Climate Change program.

At TAF, Langer has a wide portfolio. She is responsible for managing campaigns, defining strategy, working on policy, and communicating with the public about pollution and greenhouse gas reduction. Recently, she has spoken at a number of town halls about the impact of climate change.

While others may see this portfolio as daunting, Langer speaks about it with great fervour.  It’s all about focusing on three main things Toronto (and the surrounding GTHA) needs to do to reduce its greenhouse emissions, she said: improve the energy efficiency of our economy, decarbonize our energy system, and make smart land use decisions.

Langer also co-founded Eco-Babes in Toronto, an organization that facilitates networking among women who work in the sustainability industry.  Once a month, women interested in the environment or in energy can meet up, ask for advice, exchange business cards, and usually enjoy a good glass of wine or pint of beer.

At the same time, Langer says the demographics in the environmental industry are pretty evenly matched. “A challenge in the environmental community isn’t gender, but diversity,” she said. “It hasn’t yet permeated into the staffing within the environmental community. I think it is changing, but it’s not there yet.”

When she isn’t working, Langer is an avid vegetable gardener and recent canning aficionado. “There is something satisfying about growing and making food, and packing it away like a squirrel,” she said with a laugh.  Beyond that, she is quite active. During the summer, she goes canoeing and hiking with her husband and daughter, passing on the tradition of environmental awareness, as it were.

Langer is reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Adult Onset.

Preparing for climate change: how to make a resilient city

Nature is resilient, evolving and changing over time to survive surroundings. It is time for people to take a lesson from nature’s finest and learn how to be resilient.

Climate change is imminent and preparation is the key to saving cities that are otherwise under threat from rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, and water shortages. AECOM, a company that designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructures assets for governments, businesses, and organizations in over 150 countries, is helping countries create a strategy to prepare for the future and survive the inevitable effects of climate change.

In a recent report report called “What’s Next in Making Cities Resilient?”, AECOM outlines a set of criteria that could change the way infrastructure is built in large urban centres, focusing on sustainable planning choices. By starting at the end, planners can predict the outcomes of potential natural disasters that could occur in the future and make decisions through strategy instead of just designing only for immediate city needs. The company also emphasizes the importance of maintaining and updating transit infrastructure to make sure that people and business can move around the city quickly. This also reduces the environmental impact of other types of transportation. Finally, city planning must begin using sustainable and resilient planning tools right now instead of in the future. Climate change has been determined to be true, and every city must be responsible and made aware of that fact.

Climate change will impact vulnerable areas around the world, and the coast is at the top of the list. Coastal areas are popular for human habitation, with 40 per cent of the population living in these regions. This creates key challenges for urban planners because of rising sea levels and the risk of flood. AECOM is working with these cities to provide insights on how to prepare for flooding and adapt infrastructure goals to this natural threat.In Australia, 85 per cent of the population lives along the island’s coastline. AECOM released reports that presented the future impacts and hazards of climate change to the federal government. In response, Australia has adopted a new set of standards called “Considering Climate Risks when Managing, Owning and Funding Coastal Assets”, which forces developers to properly assess how to build infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of flooding and extreme coastal weather.

To respond to a variety of planning challenges across the world, AECOM has come up with a Sustainable Systems Integration (SSIM) tool that measures the costs and benefits of any plan by making urban planning more environmentally focused. SSIM measures environmental, social and economic sustainability by analyzing energy and water usage, transportation options, green building, ecology and carbon footprints. For example, the city of Tianjin in China used the SSIM land-planning tool to decide on the most environmentally effective way to build the most sustainable city possible for Samsung, just south of Tianjin. The smart city includes electric car charging outlets and is built entirely on an LED light grid to save energy.

An approved criteria of SSIM includes using natural systems as a way to protect cities. Natural systems include flood plains, bioremediation tools, and using plants that absorb pollution. By creating green space near open water for example, this green infrastructure filters pollutants and helps prevent flooding by creating a natural floodplain between the city and the open water.  A city that is using natural systems is Jeddah, acity in Saudi Arabia, which has implemented green infrastructure in the form of green space at the waterfront to prevent from extreme flooding. This is an issue that plagues the city as climate change progresses.

AECOM is leading the way with resilient infrastructure around the world. Every city should begin to look at their urban planning agenda with the future of climate change in mind. Extreme weather conditions, whether it be fire or water, which will become more common and if we don’t prepare, our cities will be ruined. In the age of internet and mass communication, we have one final shot at saving ourselves from a planet that has been devastated by human consumption. What will you do to save our home, the great planet earth.