Turning Point for Transformation? Investigating a Local Decarbonization Initiative in Waterloo Region, Canada
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Canada is a world leader - in burning fossil fuels. Canadians produce more tonnes of CO2 per capita than almost any nation on earth. Canada’s GHG emissions are part of a global problem. There is international consensus that a rapid transition to a low carbon economy within a few short decades is essential to maintain global environmental and economic integrity. The 2015 agreement in Paris set a new high watermark of this consensus and produced unprecedented international commitments to take urgent action to reduce GHG emissions. However, decades of incremental, piecemeal action at the international level have left an ‘ingenuity gap’ between the worsening impacts of climate change and the development of solutions to address those impacts. Fortunately, local level actors demonstrate promising potential for leadership on decarbonization. Cross sectoral collaboration, a flourishing array of processes and a plethora of technological solutions all add to the great potential of these ascendant local level actors. However, tensions arising in the local decarbonization space prevent local actors from harnessing their full potential as proponents of deep decarbonization. Local actors must develop the capacity to address and ultimately resolve these tensions to take the transformative action required for deep decarbonization in their communities. To that end, local actors are developing and testing governance tools that hold promise for this endeavour, such as arenas and experiments. These tools have yet to be tested in North America’s highly carbonized communities but the Decarbonize Waterloo Region forum has opened an opportunity to investigate their potential in a Canadian municipality. In November 2016, local actors in this Canadian community took the first steps toward decarbonizing its energy systems at the Decarbonize Waterloo Region forum. The forum was initiated by local scholars with the goal of developing a vision, scenarios and pathways to 100% local decarbonized energy systems by 2050. The author of this thesis seized that opportunity to investigate the nascent stages of Waterloo Region’s decarbonization process, in the spirit of a growing scholarly movement calling for more direct and active engagement in the development of local decarbonization processes. This research project aimed to join the community in the search from practical local solutions for deep decarbonization; to facilitate the initiation of local spaces for change; and to contribute to the growing critical body of literature on deliberate transformation. This investigation was pursued by means of participation in the November forum, and administration of a post forum survey to all willing participants. Forum participants were also invited to take part in post forum focus groups to generate ideas on how to use governance tools like arenas and experiments locally to help trigger deep decarbonization. This research revealed that Waterloo Region reflects a picture of local potential and tensions like that which emerges in the literature. The paper also contributes practical ideas for applying arenas and experiments as governance tools to tip this Canadian community toward deep decarbonization, including a proposal for three potential experiments to be implemented in the Region.
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Scott, 1974- Morton (2017). Turning Point for Transformation? Investigating a Local Decarbonization Initiative in Waterloo Region, Canada. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12144