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Strategic Partnership Between City of Hamilton and McMaster on Climate Planning is CriticalAugust 22, 2019

The City of Hamilton and McMaster University have a long-standing relationship of collaboration, and this is extending into the next stage of Hamilton’s environmental initiatives under a unified strategy to address climate change.

On March 27th, 2019, the City of Hamilton’s council joined Vancouver, Halifax, Kingston, and Richmond in declaring a climate emergency. At the time of writing, 43 Canadian municipalities have now taken this stance, along with the Government of Canada.

The City of Hamilton Public Works wants to align its many divisions within a unified strategy to address climate change. Public Works manages a diverse portfolio of services, including transit, water and wastewater, parks, forestry and green spaces, road maintenance and more. The city’s most ambitious goal in this strategy is for its operations to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050.

To begin the planning process, Public Works partnered with McMaster University's W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology to facilitate a June 2019 workshop for 150 members of staff from senior offices to front-line teams. The objective for the half-day workshop was to help define, in concrete terms, how every division of Public Works can contribute to a coordinated climate action strategy. 

Representatives from several divisions delivered brief presentations to provide context for group discussion. Twelve members of faculty and staff, and four graduate students from McMaster guided city staff through brainstorming exercises, identifying priority action areas in their divisions.

“I’m proud that we’re able to support City of Hamilton’s Public Works Department in developing their climate action plan and carrying out a number of short- and long-term on-the-ground initiatives. It’s empowering for our students to be involved in these partnerships,” said Gail Krantzberg, professor and lead for McMaster’s Engineering and Public Policy program. “The city is a ‘living lab’ for research and problem solving and the students who helped facilitate were really impressed by the opportunity.” In her career with the Government of Ontario, Krantzberg led environmental and water cleanup projects, bringing together stakeholders from every level of government and the private sector.

McMaster University and the City of Hamilton have a long-standing relationship, working together to solve many challenges faced by the municipality. After the climate emergency was declared, it made sense to work together on developing solutions. It’s a natural opportunity for students to roll up their sleeves and help. The two partners have agreed to long-term collaboration as the strategy is developed and rolled out.

Trevor Imhoff, Senior Project Manager with the city’s Public Health Services Healthy Environment Division, also sees the value of collaboration. “I’m a firm believer in the work that the W Booth School is doing, and it allows the city to access top researchers and great students to partner with on projects,” said Imhoff. “I’m also excited about the multi-departmental task force. Together, we can bring a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to the problems we face.”

Over recent years, Hamilton has seen its shorelines battered by high wind, rising lake levels and extreme weather events. Imhoff mentioned that Hamilton is moving towards a city that is more adaptable and resilient under a broader range of weather conditions.

“Hamiltonians have experienced our fair share of the havoc that our changing climate can bring. That’s why the partnership between the City of Hamilton, McMaster Engineering, and the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology is so critical,” said Dan McKinnon, General Manager for Public Works with the City of Hamilton.

Krantzberg and a leadership team from Public Works, are organizing a follow up session this fall to present high-level findings from the initial workshop and advance the department-wide strategic planning. In the interim, the team from McMaster continues to deliver a host of climate-related projects with the City of Hamilton.

The W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology in cooperation with others in the Faculty of Engineering and the wider university community, is eager to apply learnings from its work with the City of Hamilton to help more municipalities respond to the growing threats caused by a changing climate.