Recovering from the pandemic shouldn’t and needn’t come at the cost of services and investments. Sustainable and healthy growth can be realized by investing in green initiatives and realigning funding based on re-imagining and redesigning traditional budget allocations that entrench systemic racism and inequality. Initiatives that create a more sustainable, just, and healthy economy and community should not be overlooked or dismissed.
Ottawa's climate change master plan recognizes that climate justice and social justice are interwoven. Marginalized groups are disproportionately impacted by climate change and by cuts to services like public transportation and affordable housing, and if we can’t recover from the pandemic by doing better going forward, we haven’t learned any lessons from our experience.
Just a few examples:
- Air quality - studies, including this one by Yale University are showing that there is substantially higher exposure to air pollution in economically disadvantaged communities and those predominantly composed of racial minorities.
- Extreme heat - climate projections for the National Capital Region predict more days exceeding 30 degrees C in future. While statistics are poor in Ottawa, it is clear that those most severely impacted by extreme heat events are those who can’t afford air conditioning, seniors on a limited income, and those in poor health. At the same time, the tree canopy, which would provide shelter from extreme heat, tends to be invested most heavily in higher-income areas rather than more densely-populated urban areas.
- Affordable housing - climate impacts already experienced in the region (flooding, tornados) have significantly impacted insurance rates, which in turn increases rent and housing prices, adding to a crisis in affordable housing and homelessness.