A groundbreaking social innovation initiative that aims to drive positive change at the intersection of climate change, housing and poverty reduction will launch at York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), thanks to funding from Gore Mutual Foundation and a partnership with Social Innovation Canada (SI Canada).
The $1-million fund, announced Oct. 12, will support the development of the Climate and Equity Lab at York to better understand the impacts of climate change on vulnerable Canadians in urban environments.
In Canada, climate change is imposing an increasingly disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, and factors such as poverty significantly impact the likelihood of recovering from extreme weather events.
As part of the project, EUC has appointed Niloofar Mohtat, a full-time postdoctoral Fellow, to work to identify gaps through existing research and assist in developing new research to explore how the effects of climate change may exacerbate inequalities faced by Canada’s most disadvantaged populations. A small team of EUC graduate students will also be engaged in the project, which will include research design, scoping reviews and facilitated discussions with participants in Canada.
“In Canada, low-income communities are at a disproportionate risk of loss and damage due to extreme climate events, such as heat and flooding,” said Mohtat. “Many of them live in old rental buildings with old infrastructure, located in neighbourhoods with limited access to green spaces and services. They spend a high proportion of their income on housing, so they do not have sufficient financial resources to invest in insurance or retrofit their settlements.”
The collaborative project aligns with the University’s Academic Plan and priorities for action, and supports its commitment to build a more just and sustainable future.
This year, Gore Mutual Foundation introduced its $1-million Equity Acceleration Fund to support charitable organizations focusing on the interconnection of poverty, equity and climate change.
“We quickly identified a troubling lack of investment in the understanding of the impact climate change is having on vulnerable groups,” said Gaby Polanco Sorto, vice-president and head of purpose and sustainability at Gore Mutual Insurance Company. “Our partners in the Climate and Equity Lab share the same values, urgency and vision to make our findings public and inspire others to take action alongside us. We are thrilled to embark on this journey together.”
Gore Mutual Foundation will act as the lead sponsor of the Climate and Equity Lab, while SI Canada, a national charitable organization working to address complex challenges and create transformational change, will act as the project lead, responsible for the management of the project’s deliverables and leading the facilitation of the labs. As the academic partner, EUC will provide the research team that will work to mobilize research into climate action.
“The research from the Climate and Equity Lab will serve as a crucial tool to inform policymakers, offering clear innovation and investment opportunities developed in collaboration with the communities most affected by climate change,” said Alice Hovorka, dean of EUC.
After a year of planning, phase one of the Climate and Equity Lab’s multi-year initiative has begun, with stakeholder workshops set to take place in Vancouver, the Waterloo Region and Toronto over the next nine months.
“This collaborative effort marks a significant step toward comprehending the complex connection between climate change and vulnerable groups. In collaboration with these communities, we will work towards creating a more equitable and resilient future for all Canadians,” said Andrea Nemtin, chief executive officer of SI Canada.