How building stronger communities could help cities cope with climate change

Fifty mayors and councillors from across Canada have signed the Victoria Call to Action: a promise to build communities that can react to climate change.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions may be the first thought that comes to mind when people think of climate action, but Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Friday that strengthening communities is a type of climate action, too. 

The call to action came out of an event held last month in Victoria, B.C., where municipal representatives searched for ways to make their cities more resilient in the face of climate emergencies including floods, wildfires and other extreme weather events. 

Victoria, for example, gives grants to community centres to use at their discretion. One centre increased the number of lunches it holds for senior citizens. Helps says that creates social networks that could be invaluable in an emergency. 

"If someone doesn't show up to that lunch, if there's a flood, or a fire, or a heat wave, someone might think 'Huh…we've got to go check in,' " says Helps. 

City of Victoria

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty signed the call to action as a way to hold herself accountable in making sure she serves everyone in her community when making policy decisions.

"Every piece of community government really touches people, from safe drinking water, to the way that we handle our waste, to the recreation facilities. So [I'm] making sure that we're taking the whole community in mind for all of those decisions."  

While Alty and Helps and the other 48 signatories signed on their own behalf, not on behalf of their governments, they will ask their councils to endorse the promise. There are also plans to ask the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to sign on as well.