Amidst Pandemic, BC Community Leads Innovative Climate Engagement Process

Press Release: Amidst Pandemic, BC Community Leads Innovative Climate Engagement Process

For Immediate Release: August 6, 2020

A new case study report was released today by the non-profit organization eDemocracy Solutions (the sister organization of Canadian tech company Ethelo). The report explores the public engagement process for a new Climate Action Plan 2020 that Salt Spring Island residents did on the Ethelo platform as part of a pilot project over the month of June amidst the global pandemic. 

"At first we postponed our public engagement for the Climate Action Plan as the pandemic unfolded but we stayed in touch with community members and many encouraged us to proceed; I’m glad we did,” said CRD locally elected official Gary Holman. “This process has helped many community members understand the scale of change required and the trade-offs involved as well as provide their own unique ideas to the plan. It has been an invaluable contribution to our ability to make change a reality in our community”. 

Salt Spring Island has taken a leadership role in demonstrating how meaningful public engagement can continue and why that is important. With less than ten years left to reach the aggressive 2030 emission reduction targets agreed upon by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), many communities are already struggling to stay on track. This has been further complicated, to say the least, by COVID-19. 

The report outlines this innovative engagement process that included a mixture of targeted online and offline awareness-raising activities. The result was that over the month of June, more than 850 Salt Spring Island residents participated in this new planning process on the Ethelo platform. That represents more than 10% of community members 16 years old or above. Extra efforts went into reaching all stakeholders and traditionally marginalized groups and the result was a broadly representative sample of community members. 

“No one person can solve climate change, and that’s why community engagement is so vital. We need everyone to build a better future, together. What makes this platform unique is its ability to help find consensus in a polarized debate,” said Tarah Stafford, co-director of the project. “In an age of algorithms being weaponized by tech platforms such as Facebook, this is an example of how technology can be used instead to help people find common ground. It almost seems impossible these days but actually it's not, and given the urgency of the climate emergency, it’s more important than ever”. said Ben West, Executive Director of eDemocracy Solutions.

The report illustrates that community members from all walks of life and across the political spectrum took part in the process, and many areas of common ground were identified as well as specific concerns. The report finds that to ensure fairness, and to get a more complete picture of community preferences, it is vitally important to have a representative sample of community members, especially in any controversial decision-making process.

“It’s challenging to engage a representative slice of our island community using traditional public meetings.  Generally, the same small group of people attends all the public engagement sessions. It was great to see that a broad cross-section of community members took part in the process and, as a result, this process will be able to help us identify specific policies that can be more widely agreed upon by the community.” said Laura Patrick, Islands Trust elected official.   

Communities in Canada, the United States and elsewhere are preparing to do similar climate action planning engagements as part of this pilot project on the Ethelo “Carbon Budget” platform. For more information visit the Carbon Budget page. 

You can also click here to view the full Case Study, which offers an in-depth exploration of the entire engagement process.

Just looking for the highlights? Review the Engagement Summary, which includes a tailored report of the engagement results.

Looking for more Climate Action Engagement insights and inspiration? Fill out the form below to join us on Tuesday, August 11 at 11a PDT / 2p EDT / 6p UTC for a free eDemocracy Webinar, where we will sit down with the Transition Salt Spring team, discuss the case study, and explore strategies to help you move forward with climate action in your community.

eDemocracy Webinar