Urban Resilient Futures Burnaby

Photo by Alfred Shum, Writ3Click Photography

Why Urban Resilient Futures?

Cities that depend on the fossil fuel economy face an uncertain future as Canada transitions towards its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet cities have an extensive toolkit to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change—from building codes to land use planning to active transportation infrastructure—and are essential partners if Canada is to meet its international emissions reductions commitments. Beginning this transition early will reduce the cost of stranded infrastructure, help cities to establish their competitive advantage in the global marketplace and increase the chance that Canada will meet its 2030 targets under the Paris Accord.

The founding partners for Urban Resilient Futures Burnaby are Aqueduct Foundation, the City of Burnaby, Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and Vancity. The initiative will be managed by SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in collaboration with the City of Burnaby and Vancity based on the roles and responsibilities outlined in the program overview.

Goals and Objectives

The Urban Resilient Futures Initiative will work with the City of Burnaby, residents and stakeholders to accelerate climate action and to co-create a new, locally developed narrative for a resilient, low-carbon future. The result will be a community-driven vision and actions that are rooted in local context, values and climate science. This work will also serve as a proof-of-concept for how municipal governments across Canada that face barriers in reducing the consumption of greenhouse gasses can engage their urban populations. Specifically, the program will run from Q3 2021 to Q2 2024 and will achieve the following outcomes in the City of Burnaby:

  • Accelerating action on retrofits for commercial and residential buildings by facilitating a ZeroEmission Buildings Retrofit Task Force with representation by the financial institutions, the construction industry, commercial property owners, multi-residential property owners, tenants, homeowners, other levels of government and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Increasing resident awareness and unlocking community capacity for climate action by funding neighbourhood climate action projects, hiring resident ambassadors to assist with mapping and program delivery and delivering programming through local community partners.
  • Creating a shared vision and direction for land-use planning through the convening of a Citizens’ Assembly on Livable and Resilient Neighbourhoods, where a representative body of randomly selected residents will use evidence-based information to develop recommendations for a renewed Official Community Plan.
  • Demonstrating how cities can advance the concept of a just transition, by integrating the voices of equity-seeking communities, groups that will be most impacted by climate change and First Nations rights holders.
  • Developing participatory systems for governance, learning and evaluation that help the City of Burnaby to sustain a just transition in partnership with residents and stakeholders and continue to address climate adaptation and mitigation issues well beyond the Urban Resilient Futures initiative. 

The engagement activities carried out through Urban Resilient Futures Burnaby will not replace the public engagement processes required for the City of Burnaby to update its Official Community Plan, but will be designed so as to build upon and reinforce the Official Community Plan development and engagement processes.

Engagement Approach

Alone, any single engagement tactic is unlikely to help a community successfully find consensus and prepare for the low-carbon economy. This is because climate action requires a combination of resident support, government strategy, multi-stakeholder collaboration and sustained effort over time to troubleshoot difficult issues and identify solutions. The unique value add of the Urban Resilient Futures approach is that it will provide sustained, cross-cutting engagement across audiences—residents, government and stakeholders—to create the forward momentum necessary to overcome systemic barriers to climate action. Programming in Burnaby will run from Q3 2021 to Q2 2024 and will include:

Zero-Emission Building Retrofit Task Force

Buildings emit approximately half of all GHGs within Burnaby city limits. Many existing commercial and residential buildings will still be present for decades to come, meaning that retrofits will be an essential part of achieving City Council’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. Burnaby has therefore identified Zero-Emissions Building Retrofits as one of seven “big moves” to accelerate climate action, and has begun to discuss and research pathways forward in consultation with the City’s Environment Committee.

Neighbourhood Climate Action & Awareness Projects

Co-creating a movement for climate action with community members requires both unlocking the capacity of existing community champions, as well as expanding climate conversations beyond “environmentalists” to create discussions and engagement opportunities that meet the needs of a wider range of community members. Place-based action projects and awareness campaigns can be particularly effective in expanding community engagement by making connections between abstract climate science concepts and residents’ tangible everyday experiences in their neighbourhoods. By encouraging residents to take actions together in groups, projects can also enable participants to build social capital, explore what climate action means to their personal identity and make connections between climate and other community priorities such as health, equity and community. This type of group-based action is more likely to sustain progress over the long-term because it is rooted in community aspirations and relationships.

Citizens’ Assembly on Livable and Resilient Neighbourhoods

Burnaby will face important decisions when it next updates its Official Community Plan, choices that will shape the livability and resilience of neighbourhoods for decades to come. Proposals for neighbourhood change often serve as flash points within communities, a risk that is heightened when residents aren’t active partners in establishing an up-front vision or navigating trade-offs between considerations such as density, walkability, character, size, scale, access to nature and GHG reductions. Internationally, the OECD has identified a “deliberative wave” that is transforming how cities and other levels of governments engage residents using citizens’ assemblies and similar high-quality processes. As demonstrated within Burnaby itself through the Your Voice, Your Home Community Recommendations Workshop, such deliberative processes can improve decisions, increase trust and build democratic capacity within the broader community.

Participatory Systems for Governance, Learning and Evaluation

Participatory systems for governance, learning and evaluation can help the City to engage the full diversity of its residents, ensure that policies meet the needs of diverse groups and build the relationships that will be required to sustain climate mitigation and adaptation work well past the three-year Urban Resilient Futures initiative.

Burnaby falls within the shared, ancestral and unceded territories of the hən̓q̓ əmin̓ əm̓ and Sḵwxwú7meshspeaking people, including the Kwantlen, Sḵwxwú7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and xʷməθkʷəy ̱əm (Musqueam) First Nations. Inviting these First Nations’ participation in Urban Resilient Futures will provide an opportunity to model how cities can implement BC’s legal commitment to uphold the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Burnaby is also among the most diverse cities in Canada, yet this diversity is not yet fully reflected within City Hall or through the City’s engagement with residents. Urban Resilient Futures will therefore play a role in supporting the City’s goals to increase relationships and engagement with under-heard residents, including people of African descent, residents who speak Cantonese or Mandarin at home and urban Indigenous peoples. Special focus will be given to communities that will face disproportionate impacts from climate change, including seniors, youth, low-income residents and people with pre-existing health conditions.

Partner Organizations