The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) launched the first ever virtual Sustainable Communities Conference today. Many things make this conference a momentous occasion, including the celebration of the Green Municipal Fund’s 20th Anniversary. The turnout for the conference has exceeded expectations and exceeded the turnout for in-person conferences with over 500 delegates.

To begin, FCM’s Chief Executive Officer, Carole Saab, and the new President, Garth Frizzell welcomed the delegation. Noteworthy achievements include the success of the Green Municipal Fund (GMF). GMF has contributed $950 million to over 1,360 municipal sustainability initiatives. Together we have contributed to cleaner drinking water, expanding energy efficiency, greener transportation, site restorations, and so much more.

Mayor Danny Breen, St. John’s Newfoundland, brought the beauty of the City to us with a virtual tour of the community and its coast. Since the conference was originally supposed to take place in St. John’s, FCM collaborated with the City to provide delegates with a Study Tour to highlight the sustainable initiatives the community has put forth.

The keynote was described by many as the highlight of the conference’s first day. Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, author of The Drawdown Review and All We Can Save, enthusiastically defined a framework for climate solutions and transformational leadership. It is not often that climate experts speak with so much optimism for the future. While Dr. Wilkinson addressed the severity of climate change and the need for action “yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever,” her description of the framework inspired hope. The framework is highly complex; however, it can be boiled down to three solutions: reducing sources, supporting sinks, and improving society. Dr. Wilkinson emphasized the integral role of local leaders, concluding that “community holds so much wisdom and individualism is a myth.”

Last month, FCM announced the 2020 Sustainable Community Award winners. Over the course of the next few days, each of the winners will be presenting TED Talk-style sessions on their sustainable initiatives. At the end of the conference, delegates will vote for one of the winners to receive FCM’s Inspire Award. The Inspire Award celebrates the project that demonstrates the most creativity and innovation and will be announced on the final day of the conference.

Following the keynote, delegates had six workshops to choose from. Each workshop presented unique opportunities for local leaders to learn about community sustainability. Elected officials, municipal practitioners, FCM representatives, and others shared case studies and innovative ideas on topics such as coastal community engagement, integrating climate considerations and asset management, efficient financing, and urban forestry.

At the end of the Day 1, delegates came together for the Resiliency Roundtables. Attendees had the opportunity to share with the whole group their favourite parts of today’s conference sessions as well as breakout into smaller working groups to discuss the resiliency initiatives that inspire you in your community. The Roundtable provided the perfect opportunity to deepen learning and meet with fellow delegates on a virtual platform.

Stay tuned for a recap of the next two days of FCM’s 2020 Sustainable Communities Conference by subscribing to our News Page.