Climate Policy Change:
A Marathon not a Sprint

If you have ever run in a marathon, you are familiar with the concept of hitting the wall and having to run through it in order to reach the finish line.

Eric St-Pierre, Executive Director of The Trottier Family Foundation is an avid runner. One of the most difficult yet significant marathons he has run lately was not measured in kilometers but in carbon emissions and involves an important climate policy announcement by the federal government on March 19, 2019.

In the 2019 Budget, the government announced it will help fight climate change with a $183 million investment in Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3), a partnership between seven local centres and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that will enable and accelerate urban carbon-reduction solutions, helping Canada meet 2030 and 2050 climate change targets.

There is a race track with the words start that leads to a city.

On Your Mark… Get Set….

The marathon started in 2016 when the Trottier Family Foundation attended an event and met members of The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a regional climate agency that invests in low-carbon solutions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and created by the Toronto City Council in 1991.

The Trottier Family Foundation was established in Montreal in 2000 by Lorne Trottier and Louise Rousselle Trottier to create meaningful impact that improves the lives of Canadians through the advancement of scientific inquiry and the promotion of education, and by fostering better health and protecting the environment and mitigating climate change.

In the spirit of The Trottier Family Foundation’s mission to catalyze and scale transformative innovations by creating cross sector collaborations and taking risks, St-Pierre was inspired by the success of TAF and immediately wanted to replicate the model in Montreal. “There is no other entity like them” says St-Pierre. “They take practical projects and help bring them to scale.”

The TAF approach is unique in that it collaborates with stakeholders in the private, public and non-profit sectors and advances the most promising concepts. “We use various arrows in our quiver such as impact investing, grants, advocacy and running our own programs.” says Mary Pickering, Vice President, Programs & Partnerships at The Atmospheric Fund.

The Perfect Running Partner

Although TAF had been approached to share its model and explore how to replicate it before, it did not have the capacity nor the mandate to support other cities. Most of the requests would end up going no further. But this time was different.

After meeting TAF, the Trottier Family Foundation commissioned a study in 2017 to determine whether there was a need for a similar entity in Montreal. The Dunsky report found that it was feasible and gave the foundation the ammunition to explore dialogue nationally. TAF and The Trottier Family Foundation organized two full-day consultations in Toronto and in Vancouver inviting environmental organizations, community organizations, city representatives, academics, climate leaders and others.

“At the end of this process, we ended up finding people that were interested in working on this crazy idea together.” Says Eric St-Pierre.

It helped mobilize other funders along with the foundation’s influence and soon more than 7 entities made up of numerous cross-sectoral organizations were interested in launching a TAF model in several Canadian municipalites. Weekly meetings helped co-design terms for implementation.

The Trottier Foundations with its staff of two people, at that time, was heavily involved throughout this process. “It’s impossible to just write a cheque and move on,” says Eric St-Pierre. “There is a huge time commitment and you have to be flexible and respond quickly.”

Two people celebrating in front of Canadian Parliament
Eric St-Pierre, Executive Director of the Trottier Family Foundation celebrates with Julia Langer, CEO of The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) after the announcement of a $183 million investment from the federal government to enable and accelerate urban carbon-reduction solutions.

Not Over the Finish Line Yet

Because the timing was not right to apply for funding from the provincial government in Quebec due to the election and budgeting cycle, the group focused its efforts on a proposal to the federal government and hired a government relations expert to support their efforts.

“Sometimes, timing is everything” says Mary. “There was a growing amount of serious interest.”

Despite the receptive ear, it took over 6 months to put together the proposal and to meet with various government officials to convince them to read and consider it.

“I remember a meeting on January 31st where we thought there was a 20% chance this was going to happen,” recalls Eric St-Pierre. “Then after a week, 20% turned into 90%.”

Although the announcement has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is participating on the project through an LC3 National Office and many of the original stakeholders are still involved, meeting weekly and emailing frequently to create template agreements and begin the process of eventually staffing local offices.

On August 30th, 2019, the Government of Canada announced the allocation of $33 million from the $183 million investment in Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) to the Trottier Family Foundation for the establishment of the Montreal Climate Centre, which will support low-carbon solutions in the Montreal Metropolitan region.

“There is a sense of urgency,” says Eric. “If we don’t figure out climate, nothing else matters. It compromises work across all sectors.”

“There is a sense of urgency. If we don’t figure out climate, nothing else matters. It compromises work across all sectors.”

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