[Action] Sustainability Lens

Action: Tell your councillor you want a meaningful “Sustainability Lens.”

On October 12, 2011 a motion was carried by Ottawa City Council to include a section called “Accessibility Impacts” in staff reports. The idea is that city staff be sure to consider how actions affect people with disabilities and seniors.

This so called “Accessibility Lens” joins statements in staff reports that show consideration of financial, risk management, rural, technology, and legal implications etc.

I had mused that if such an approach makes sense for people with disabilities wouldn’t it equally make sense for climate change implications? The idea was picked up by a journalist at OpenFile Ottawa who in turn got endorsement by Councillor David Chernushenko.

I have since learned that the forthcoming plans out of the Choosing Our Future process will include a recommendation for a “Sustainability Lens” (likely the Sustainability & Resilience Plan; there will also be a Regional Energy & Emissions Plan and a Risk Prevention & Mitigation Plan).

Evidently the view is that a “climate lens” would not be politically viable, being seen as too narrow a focus. Some (including me) might disagree, believing that it is the very broad nature of the climate change problem that means it touches on almost everything the City does. But let’s set that aside for the moment.

The reality is that a Sustainability Lens will be coming before Environment Committee, possibly in January.  Your City Councillor should not only support it but should work to ensure that it is meaningful and explicitly includes emphasis on climate change.

The City of Ottawa recognizes four dimensions of sustainability – economic, cultural, social and environmental. Limiting the Sustainability Lens to these dimensions may possibly mean that climate change gets minimal consideration in future staff reports. Economic, cultural and social sustainability are impossible in the face of “irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change,” which is what the unquestionably business-oriented International Energy Agency believes we are on course for.

So, tell your councillor that you support a Sustainability Lens, but that it needs to explicitly include a climate change aspect.

For illustrative purposes, here I’ve edited the Accessibility Lens motion that carried in October into a climate-inclusive Sustainability Lens motion.

1.   That staff be directed to immediately include a section called “Accessibility Impacts” “Sustainability Impacts” in all reports to Committee and Council that would describe all actions taken to ensure that staff review proposed projects, prior to Council approval, for any potential positive or negative impact on People with Disabilities and seniors Ottawa’s economic, cultural, social and environmental sustainability including considerations of climate change.

2.   That by the end of 2011, Accessibility Office July of 2012 Community Sustainability Department staff work with the Accessibility Environmental Advisory Committee to develop an “Accessibility a “Sustainability Impacts Checklist” to assist staff when writing committee reports to determine the impact of their work on People with Disabilities Sustainability.  This is to be accomplished within existing budgets.

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