ACT, SFU Starts Its Second Act

September 08, 2021

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) renowned ACT - Action on Climate Team embraces a new approach, a new home and new leadership.

For 15 years, the ACT, SFU research team has helped practitioners and local governments make smarter decisions on climate policy and infrastructure.

At the outset, ACT maintained a laser focus on adaptation. At a time when the focus of climate action was on reducing emissions, ACT was talking about climate hazards and impacts—identifying strategies and actions to help communities prepare for, and respond to, climate risks. At that time, those risks seemed like a distant threat.

Of course, they aren’t anymore. In recent years, as climate impacts such as floods, wildfires, droughts and heat waves have moved into the daily news cycle, the global research and practice communities have sharpened their focus to more systemic climate actions to accelerate resilience and sustainability on multiple fronts.

As a result of this evolution, ACT is shifting gears and embracing a new focus in three new ways.

An Integrated and Systemic Purpose 

First, we’ve made a slight branding tweak. While our acronym will remain, it will now stand for ACT—the Action on Climate Team

We are now investigating and championing integrated climate action, also known as low carbon resilience—policies, strategies and investments that advance community resilience while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

Low carbon resilience is practical and effective because it aims to coordinate data and decision-making to minimize climate risks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also advancing other priorities such as equity, biodiversity and economic development. Our recent Integrated Climate Action for BC Communities Initiative (ICABCCI) (2018-2021) proved-out this approach in 10 local governments across the province, and is launching tools and resources for local governments, practitioners and funding bodies across Canada and beyond.

Our work on nature-based solutions and on connecting climate action to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is helping to demonstrate how the integration of climate action across all sectors play a role in minimizing risk, reducing emissions and advancing adaptive capacity and equity.

The take-home message of ACT’s forthcoming work is that climate action—when viewed from a systemic lens and integrated with other social, environmental and economic goals—is a crucial step in the transition to more sustainable community development.

A New Home 

Second, we have a new home at the university. ACT has now joined SFU’s Vice-President, Research and International portfolio. We are excited to work together with SFU leadership, researchers, staff and affiliate organizations to develop a leading-edge climate change and sustainability initiative. The goal is to elevate and amplify SFU’s reputation as a living laboratory and a research-to-practice leader in these areas.

ACT’s New Leader 

And finally, we have a leadership change! After 15 years at the helm of ACT, Executive Director Deborah Harford recently embarked on a new adventure and handed ACT’s reins to Dr. Alison Shaw, her longtime research partner and colleague. Deborah Harford will remain engaged in ACT as a senior advisor.

An accomplished climate change and sustainability scholar and practitioner, Dr. Shaw has most recently served as the co-creator of and research lead on ACT’s Integrated Climate Action for BC Communities Initiative. As a result, communities across British Columbia and the country are now choosing more strategic and effective climate actions and investments.

Dr. Shaw will continue to build on ACT’s work identifying leading-edge initiatives, pursuing strategic partnerships and co-creating and mobilizing knowledge for effective solutions-building.

It’s Time to Act!

Communities across Canada are currently grappling with a series of extreme climate-driven events. Given these rapidly changing conditions, governments must have the latest data, projections and best practices in hand when considering policies and investments. With its new leadership and new home, ACT—SFU’s Action on Climate Team—will recommend practical, systemic and leading-edge solutions that reduce risk and emissions while advancing broader sustainability imperatives.

Watch out for our LCR Planning Handbook and LCR Framework for Action tool that help local governments undertake integrated and systemic action. Soon we will also be releasing other LCR tools: the LCR Strategies and Indicators Guide, the LCR Business Case for Local Governments, Climate Action and Sustainability – the LCR and SDGs Handbook, and more.

With recent support from the Aqueduct Foundation, and in collaboration with the Centre for Dialogue, we will continue building the knowledge and tools needed for nature-based solutions to be an effective climate, biodiversity, infrastructure and sustainability strategy for both public and private sectors.

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