New report urges a focus on equity in Regina's transition to sustainability

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A new report urges Regina City Council to emphasize equity when implementing the 100% Renewable Regina motion adopted unanimously by Council in 2018. Renewable Regina: Putting Equity Into Action was co-authored by Dr. Emily Eaton, associate professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Regina, and Simon Enoch, Saskatchewan director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report offers key recommendations on how the city might ensure a socially just transition to 100% sustainability, and is based on a series of focus group consultations the authors convened with representatives from a diverse group of Regina community-based organizations. The consultations aimed to bring the experiences of marginalized groups to the forefront, and included participants from local Indigenous, women’s, 2SLGBTQ+, newcomer, and disability communities and others, along with Regina labour leaders.

Notes Enoch, ‘Our main concern is when they’re thinking about how to implement these policies, that those vulnerable populations, those equity concerns, are always front and centre’.

This is crucial, according to the report, given the ways that marginalized individuals and groups have typically not only been disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, but have frequently been the least likely members of society to benefit from sustainability measures. The report likewise points to the very real risk of deepening social inequalities through one-dimensional approaches to sustainability that fail to take the perspectives and challenges of marginalized residents into consideration.

‘If we don't focus on including everyone and ensuring that people see energy transition as a net benefit to them, we risk alienating them. We risk people seeing energy transition as an additional cost to their lives,’ says Eaton.

Report co-author Dr. Emily Eaton speaks at a City Hall press conference

A key recommendation of the report is that the city immediately convene two committees to help guide its energy and sustainability framework: an equity committee on sustainability that would include people from marginalized communities and the organizations that serve them, and a just transition committee composed of workers and their representatives.

Based on feedback from their consultations, the report also recommends the city consider policies such as phased-in, fare-free public transit, increased greenspace, and improved safety and accessibility of transit, sidewalks and bike lanes, in order to address the needs of more residents.

With an upcoming municipal election, there exists a great opportunity, according to the report authors, to broaden the conversation on sustainability and the energy transition to include an equity focus from the outset. According to the report: ‘An equity lens shouldn’t be seen as some luxury add-on; rather, it is a tool to ensure the just distribution of climate protection efforts to all city residents’.

Says Eaton, ‘If the city and its councilors ignore equity in their renewable energy framework, they risk limiting the effectiveness of their policies and further exacerbating existing inequalities within our city’.

 

Media coverage of the launch of Renewable Regina: Putting Equity Into Action:

The Regina LeaderPost: https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/equity-must-be-a-focus-in-regina-sustainability-talks-report

CBC Saskatchewan: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/report-on-regina-renewable-targets-emphasizes-equity-1.5728492

The David Suzuki Foundation: https://davidsuzuki.org/story/regina-researchers-urge-city-focus-equity-climate-planning/

CTV Regina: https://regina.ctvnews.ca/group-urges-city-to-focus-on-equity-when-implementing-regina-s-renewable-energy-plan-1.5109343

NewsTalk 1010: https://www.iheartradio.ca/newstalk-1010/news/group-urges-city-to-focus-on-equity-when-implementing-regina-s-renewable-energy-plan-1.13515655

 

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28 September 2020