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$22-million federal endowment to fund new urban climate change centre at SFU

The centre will focus on urban climate change issues at a municipal level
Simon Fraser University will be the home of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Innovation Centre. Photo: Simon Fraser University / Twitter

Simon Fraser University will be the home of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) Innovation Centre, one of seven such centres across the country.

The centre is being funded through a $22 million endowment from the federal government; the money will be used to fund low-carbon solutions. Local MP and federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement Tuesday during a press conference.

"Its aim is to facilitate Metro Vancouver's carbon footprint through research, vastly building in the use of innovative financing tools," he said.

The centre will be run through SFU's Renewable Cities program. The money will be a self-sustaining endowment and will allow the centre to take on an accelerator role.

"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," Wilkinson said.

The LC3's goal is to overcome those barriers. While the centre will focus on Metro Vancouver, the ideas will be shared throughout the country says Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) president Garth Frizzell. While today's announcement was of federal funds, the FCM's Green Municipal Fund will be the national office for the seven LC3 centres.

"Canada’s cities and communities are on the frontline of climate change; we’re on the frontline of new weather extremes, things that wreck havoc on people’s lives and businesses," Frizzell said from Prince George. "We’re also on the forefront of climate action."

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart noted that the city is looking forward to working with SFU.

"The public hear climate change every day but I think it’s important to show them the practical solutions that are coming at a rapid rate," he said.

He noted Vancouver's work on passive housing as an example of work that's being done in the building sector, one of two sectors he foresees a focus on. In the other, transportation, he's hopeful to see active transportation initiatives.

Alex Boston, the executive director of the Renewable Cities program, explained things like electric bikes are also interesting, as they could be a big disruptive force in the transportation sector. He also noted heat pumps as something where the initial cost is high, but in the long term is worth it. In any case, he's looking for ideas that will be good for the environment and offer a good return on investment.

"We need much more integrated agendas…we need to build a much more resilient economy and that’s what we’re going to be looking for," Boston said. 

Now that the federal government has provided funds, he added, he hopes to see something from the province as well.

The centre is expected to open in September of this year.