When 3 Months Turns to 3 Years: My Journey with ClimateActionWR
December 19, 2013 | Sarah Brown
Have you ever started something and vastly underestimated how much impact it would eventually have? Maybe it’s a casual first date that becomes a life partner, a lecture that grows to be a sweeping passion, or a few wistful lines that transform into an autobiography. For me, it has been the journey over the past 3 years with ClimateActionWR. It was around this same time in December 2010 when I first met with Mike Morrice and Mary Jane Patterson about an internship position for the “Waterloo Region Climate Action Plan”. Having recently finished grad school, I liked that it was an opportunity in my field based in a familiar community, and that it was meant to be just a 3-month contract. This, I thought, would give me the extra time I needed to answer the age-old question of “what am I going to do with my life?” I’m writing to you today, 3 years later, swelled with pride for what’s transpired in this part of my life: Waterloo Region has its first-ever comprehensive community action plan on climate change!
In November and early December of this year, the City Councils of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, as well as Regional Council, unanimously passed recommendations to endorse the Climate Action Plan, commit to a community GHG reduction target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020, and continue working together towards implementation of the plan. Through these decisions, Waterloo Region has joined over 250 others across Canada who are demonstrating the important role that communities play in response to the global climate change challenge (as Melissa will expand upon in a follow-up to this post).
While I may not have realized how big this could become back then, there were others that did. The Steering Committee of Mike, Mary Jane and David Roewade from the Region had already come to the conviction that this community could achieve an even greater impact with a common GHG reduction target to work towards. In the years since, they’ve continued to provide the leadership needed to shepherd this idea through to completion while gaining momentum and supporters along the way. They would be the first to tell you that here in Waterloo Region we’re ready to take this plan forward. We have a strong and growing sustainability network, and the right people in the right places to successfully implement the plan. While it was municipal Councils who provided the unanimous endorsement needed this past month, I know they have done so knowing that there is a reciprocal commitment and excitement from across this community to together contribute to achieving this goal by 2020.
I hope you take some time to read through the Climate Action Plan and pause for a moment on pages 2, 68 & 69 – these three are my favourites. For me, they represent a snapshot of the incredible people and organizations that have defined my experience over the past three years. For this community, they represent the leadership capacity and results-oriented tenacity that exists here in Waterloo Region to really make things happen. For you, these pages might hold the names of colleagues, friends, or people you recognize as local champions. I hope you can see yourself joining alongside them to move this plan forward in the years to come. To borrow words from the Steering Committee, “we expect the majority of this story – Waterloo Region’s transition to a low-carbon economy – is still to be written. This is a story we’re excited to be a part of. Even more though, we’re excited that you’re a part of it too.”
Our community deserves congratulations for reaching this milestone. At the same time let’s not consider this to be an end, but rather a beginning. Continued and escalated efforts will be needed to reach our 6% reduction target.
In December 2010, I did not predict how deeply rewarding it would be to learn, experience challenges and find inspiration through such meaningful work in the early years of my career. I have grown a lot through this journey and it has shaped the person and the professional I am today. For ClimateActionWR as a whole, I hope that history repeats itself. I hope that today we’re standing on the brink of something that we envision will be significant, but that in time it is proven that we have vastly underestimated the substantial impact it ends up having on the future of Waterloo Region.