Julia Langer’s passion for the environment spans more than three decades, from the time she wanted to become a marine biologist, to when she was inspired by her parents during the Don River clean ups in Toronto.
Since then, she has held senior leadership positions in the environmental sector, managing campaigns and organizations, defining strategy and policy, and inspiring public and private action to address air pollution and climate change in her community.
Her most recent role is CEO of The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a position she has held since 2009.
“TAF’s mandate is to advance locally relevant solutions to climate change in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” she says. “There’s no one way to achieve that objective – you often need a combination tools. So, we are a grant maker, an investor, an advocate, and a convener.”
Langer’s creative thinking and big ambitions on climate change and TAF’s successes, led to the inception of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3) network, modelled on TAF’s trajectory. “TAF was established by the City of Toronto in 1991 before climate change was headline news,” says Langer. “It was about local action, which is what we need in urban areas across the country. We incubated the idea to co-develop the model and what emerged was a proposal for what would later become the LC3 network.”
Since these initial conversations in 2017, the LC3 network has become a partnership between TAF, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and five other organizations (including seven cities) in major urban areas across Canada. Each organization, as of January 2021, has received or is in the process of receiving an endowment from the Government of Canada to establish their own, local LC3 Centre. Each Centre will invest in and fund grant programs to address their respective city’s climate change goals and create benefits for members in their communities.
Langer says she is really looking forward to the LC3 idea exchange. “The exciting piece is to be able to share knowledge and make our capacity go further,” she says. “We are looking forward to collaboration opportunities on impact investing and co-granting. One perfect example would be working toward a federal zero emissions vehicle mandate: when you see what that mandate would do in terms of urban carbon emission reduction, it’s huge. But it is going to take a fair amount of effort to move that forward and get to implementation. And so, working together might be the best way to move the dial. In fact, I think one of the reasons the LC3 concept will work very well is that all stakeholders have a solid experience of working in networks and in a collaborative environment. There is a commitment to using those skills and that approach to further our work.”
Photo courtesy of WWF Canada and Bill Ivy.