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Local action on a global problem

This year’s Kingston Climate Change Symposium, co-sponsored by Queen’s, focused on lessons being learned during the pandemic. 

The global challenge of fighting climate change requires local actions. With that in mind, Queen’s helped the local community bring the environment to the forefront by co-sponsoring the Kingston Climate Change Symposium hosted by Sustainable Kingston on Jan. 14. Held on Zoom with full registration, the symposium brought together local, national, and international speakers to discuss resilience in the struggle for a sustainable future.

“As a university committed to global impact, Queen’s has a responsibility to advance thinking about climate change and sustainability. That work starts in Kingston, the community we call home. We were very pleased to help make this year’s Kingston Climate Change Symposium possible and thank Sustainable Kingston for hosting a great virtual event,” says Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec, whose office organized the sponsorship.

Supporting this event is part of Queen’s broader efforts to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Recently, the university signaled its commitment to these goals by submitting to the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

Queen’s sponsorship helped fund the event’s keynote lecture, which was delivered by Severn Cullis-Suzuki, an environmental activist who will begin serving as the next executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation in September 2021.

Cullis-Suzuki’s speech focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic has taught valuable lessons that can be used to tackle climate change, such as the value of empathy and the power of individual actions.

“Perhaps if we realize the wisdom that we’ve gained through this hard time we just might take the right steps that will get us to our goal: a zero-carbon economy by 2050,” Cullis-Suzuki said in her lecture.

The other speakers of the day brought a wide range of experiences and perspectives to the symposium. David Phillips, who has worked for Environment Canada for 50 years, spoke about how climate change is already causing severe and abnormal weather in Canada, which he says is only a precursor to more extreme weather in the future. Julie Salter-Keane spoke about her experiences as the manager of the City of Kingston’s Climate Leadership Division. Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, discussed leading Canada’s largest food rescue organization. A PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Henrique S. Benites, addressed urban sustainability and architecture. Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson was also on hand to provide welcoming remarks.

At last year’s Kingston Climate Change Symposium, Queen’s student Devon Hawkins spoke about his algae-based sustainable food venture.

Watch the full symposium on the City of Kingston’s YouTube channel.

Visit the Sustainability Office’s website to learn more about Queen’s sustainability initiatives.