This past Tuesday, February 3, Peterborough community members committed to “The Leap Manifesto” in order to tackle climate change through local action. The Citizen’s Climate Action Forum, organized by a number of local organizations, welcomed over 100 dedicated community members of all ages and walks of life with the aim of developing an action plan to create “a Canada based on caring for the planet and each other.”
The Citizen’s Climate Action Forum recognizes climate change both as an impending crisis and as an opportunity to generate a profound and much needed systemic change. Inspired by Naomi Klein’s most recent book and film, This Changes Everything, and The Leap Manifesto, the forum seeks to situate local struggles within a broader global context and notes that local action across the board has the potential to drive global change.
In the spring of 2015, the This Changes Everything team convened a meeting in Toronto that united over 60 representatives from Canada’s indigenous rights, social and food justice, environmental, faith-based, and labour movements. The outcome of this meeting was The Leap Manifesto. The Leap Manifesto notes that small steps are no longer enough to tackle climate change, but that instead, we need to leap.
Renewable energy, accessibility, and the elimination of racial and gender inequality lie at the heart of The Leap Manifesto. The Manifesto calls for several specific systemic reforms: a collectively controlled clean energy system with priority given to Indigenous peoples, a universal program to build energy-efficient homes, retraining for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, accessible high-speed rail powered solely by renewables, investment in decaying public infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events, a localized and ecologically-based agricultural system, an end to all trade agreements, and a universal basic annual income.
The Citizen’s Climate Action Forum invited all community members to talk about issues particular to Peterborough, to identify concrete local actions, and to ultimately become agents of change. The event began with a historical account of Peterborough’s place as a leader in sustainability and action, a leadership that sets the stage for Peterborough’s undertaking of The Leap Manifesto.
The forum identified eight key categories. Attendees chose one of these issues to address, depending on their personal interest and expertise. Each group was tasked with discussing the key issues within their category, identifying an overarching goal, and developing actions to reach that goal. The groups were highly varied, making for an innovative and knowledge-sharing environment that was truly collaborative, inclusive, and change-oriented. The results of the Citizen’s Climate Action Forum were both practical and critical:
Corporate, Trade, Investment & Divestment
The group identified that both a value change and a systemic change as crucial. They proposed a democratization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the lobbying of local and municipal councils to review Peterborough’s municipal investments. In addition, they proposed the idea of a “gift circle”, which encourages the sharing of services and ideas outside our current economic system. They encourage all Peterborough citizens to look into personal investments and redirect these into more ethical and environmental sources. Lastly, they proposed the strategies of de-growth at both the local and the global scales.
Democratic Reform & Indigenous Knowledge.
The group promoted active partnerships with Indigenous peoples and local organizations, in addition to self-education. They emphasized the importance of the continuous practice of allyship and awareness. They suggested hosting a community forum based on knowledge-sharing.
Poverty, Inequality & Wealth
The group presented an overarching goal: an equitable, caring society supporting the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of all. They noted three distinct actions to achieve this goal, including supporting the local economy, supporting and raising awareness of the basic income strategy, and encouraging change-oriented education and awareness.
Greening the Economy
This group identified a number of different actions. They promoted creating a Citizen’s Trust Community Bank to provide interest-free loans to projects that emphasized environmental sustainability. They encouraged citizens to participate in and voice their concerns at the upcoming review of the Official Plan and in the newly implemented participatory budgeting process. Additionally, the group noted that it was important to look at the successes of other cities and municipalities and adopt these best practices within Peterborough. They emphasized collaboration between environmental groups, economic development groups, and business owners, and pushed for a united vision and strategy. They also noted the importance of sharing success stories, much like the Facebook group, “Ptbo Random Acts of Green” does.
This group noted that increased education on our current food system and alternative ones is necessary for the needed transformation. They noted that education on best farming practices with an ecological and holistic approach is also essential to change food production. Lastly, they proposed making a guide to restaurants Peterborough that serve local food and encouraged everyone to attend the weekly farmers’ market.
The group identified the current banking system as a barrier to change. They proposed a seminar series to inform citizens of alternatives and best banking practices.
The group noted that education is also a key component in this process and that citizens should pressure the municipality to change housing regulations and improve existing infrastructure.
Renewable Energy and Conservation
This group noted that their goal was to reduce greenhouse gases and proposed very tangible and important actions. The first was to pressure governments to incentivize and regulate green energy. They noted that implementing a Local Improvement Charge could be effective, as the program gives loans to individuals with green initiatives and they pay back through their taxes. They proposed a community energy co-op and participatory budgeting.
The group challenged all attendees to reduce their vehicle usage by 10 per cent, which contributes to greenhouse gas reductions. They encouraged continued political advocacy for stringent carbon taxing. They noted that individuals have a role to play in identifying what issues discourage them from cycling or using public transit, and bringing these forth to the municipal government. They also suggested posting stickers on gas pumps about the impacts of climate change and the importance of supporting infrastructure for electric cars. They voiced concerns about The Parkway and urged attendees to continue to mobilize against this initiative.
The Citizen’s Climate Action Forum was an impressive demonstration of the power and creativity of grassroots movements in driving change. If such an initiative continues to be successful, it has the potential of transforming Peterborough and ultimately, creating a “Canada based on caring for the planet and each other.”