Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer 

On January 12, 2021, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that Canada’s federal government had chosen SFU to house their newest Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Innovation Centre. 

The Centre will be created in a partnership with the Renewable Cities Program at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. It is government funded with an endowment of $21.7 million. Wilkinson noted that “its aim is to [reduce] Metro Vancouver’s carbon footprint through research, capacity building, and the use of innovative financing tools.”

According to Wilkinson, “Many promising urban low-carbon solutions fail to make it from proven concept to implementation due to a whole range of different factors — including difficulty accessing capital and markets, risk aversion, and policy barriers.” He added, “SFU’s new urban climate centre will help overcome these barriers by investing in, derisking, demonstrating, and scaling up local decarbonizing solutions. The result will be investment-ready projects that can be taken to the next level by private or public sector partners.”

This announcement comes after the introduction of the Canadian Federal government’s new climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, announced in December 2020. It aims to exceed targets for 2030 carbon emissions and become net zero by 2050. Wilkinson noted that the LC3 Innovation Centre will reduce carbon emissions from Metro Vancouver, create local work, and protect the environment. 

The Metro Vancouver press conference held a panel discussion with various government officials and non-profit leaders including Wilkinson, Member of Parliament Terry Beech, City of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and Director of Renewable Cities Alex Boston.

Also in attendance was President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Garth Frizzell who noted in the press conference that the “announcement recognizes that local leadership is essential for cutting climate-changing emissions.” This was a sentiment echoed by Wilkinson in an interview with The Peak, where he said that the federal government has “started consultations with the provinces and territories about how [they’re] going to move forward [with the new climate plan].” Wilkinson said that “[they] are looking for the provinces to step up, and do more.”

He elaborated that this includes Indigenous communities and over the last few years the federal government has been committed to working in partnership with Indigenous leadership. They have ensured that the programs they come forward with are “effectively co-developed with Indigenous leadership.” According to Wilkinson, the new climate plan is “about actually getting [Indigenous] communities involved in economic opportunities.”

Regarding the federal government’s purchase of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project, Wilkinson responded that “there’s no inconsistency with the Trans Mountain Pipeline and fighting climate change.” He said that instead, “it creates the building blocks for us, enabling us to achieve net zero by 2050.” 

At the press conference, Wilkinson said, “The challenge and the opportunity of our post-COVID recovery [ . . . ] is to lower greenhouse gas emissions in a way that strengthens Canada’s competitiveness, in what will increasingly be a low-carbon future around the world.” 

Serving as a Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, Wilkinson was pleased to see the centre located in Metro Vancouver. He elaborated, “Today’s announcement represents a part of these ambitious plans and [SFU] is a natural partner — a school whose namesake embodies the power and the potential of exploration and of innovation.”

Wilkinson told The Peak that the Innovation Centres in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and now Metro Vancouver are each tasked with “identifying the areas of priority that are most important to the community that they live in.” Wilkinson noted that these Centres were inspired by Toronto’s Atmospheric Fund built in 1991.