About ACT

ACT is a state-of-the-art research-to-practice hub for climate change and sustainability solutions. We work across sectors to mobilize relevant knowledge for practice.

The first, and still the only, university-based think tank initiative in North America dedicated to a comprehensive suite of climate action issues

We anchor our work in the following four broad themes:

Co-creating New Practice Within and Across Sectors

Climate action is not an isolated, compartmentalized endeavor; more than ever, it needs to become part and parcel of everyday business. All sectors, institutions, and organizations must now overhaul their practices and investment decisions to reduce climate risk and emissions. There are many business reasons for doing so. Implementing climate action also helps to address equity and advance many other sustainability goals. Co-creating comprehensive and systemic climate and sustainability solutions with key sectoral partners and decisionmakers is the core capability of ACT, SFU. Our goal is to build partnerships and collaborate to co-design the best, most sustainable solutions and pathways forward within and across all sectors.

Advancing LCR – Climate Actions that Multi-Task

Integrated climate action, or low-carbon resilience (LCR), minimizes climate risk, reduces emissions, and advances multiple social, environmental, and economic sustainability goals—including across all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using an LCR approach we identify systemic opportunities to advance the co-benefits of climate action such as equity, biodiversity, clean economic development and healthy and sustainable communities AND we need to embed and mainstream risk and emissions reduction across all SDGs in order to build effective and sustainable solutions. We know better, so let’s do better. ACT will continue its leading-edge work in this area, helping governments, practitioners, businesses, and funding organizations adopt and integrate the LCR approach in their strategies and practices. 

Mobilizing Equity in All Decisions and Solutions

Not everyone feels climate impacts equally; some populations and communities are more vulnerable than others. That is why choosing and implementing climate and sustainability policies, investments, and actions, decision makers must prioritize the needs of those most at risk and least capable to adapt. “The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for [all of its] members” (Pearl Buck, c. 1930).  All potential climate solutions must address questions: Who benefits from a given policy, investment, and action? Who doesn’t? ACT will continue to advocate on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, elders, the poor, those with compromised immune systems, and residents of northern and remote communities. We understand that the most vulnerable, and those with the least capacity to adapt, are at highest risk to climate impacts and must be a priority in a just, resilient, and sustainable transition in our communities and organizations.

Springing Forward to a Safer, Resilient, and Sustainable Future

Now is the time to act. Every Canadian sector can and must lead. Whether avoiding projected climate risks and costs, saving money on energy and priced carbon, seizing a competitive advantage, or nurturing a moral imperative – taking transformative action now just makes sense. The time for waiting for others to act has passed. ACT aims to help communities, organizations, and institutions learn, adjust, and spring forward. We will work with research and sectoral partners on policy, technology, and streamlining solutions to generate high-impact, measurable outcomes. We will continue to encourage influential professional groups and communities of practice, funding agencies, and governments to incentivize opportunities that accelerate the transformations needed for a low carbon, resilient, and sustainable future.

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Dr. Alison Shaw

Executive Director

Dr. Shaw has over two decades of experience leading cross-cutting climate change and sustainability science and policy research, and in mobilizing knowledge, developing tools, and creating partnerships. She has worked as a scholar, a science-policy strategist, and a sustainability consultant and organizational coach. As Founder of FlipSide Sustainability, a consulting and coaching company, Dr. Shaw applied her research background to co-create with clients’ leading-edge practices at international, national, regional, and local scales. Her efforts have focused on transformative change, encouraging policy makers and decision makers to understand climate change and sustainability as a profound and urgent socio-economic design challenge that requires engagement from all sectors and scales of governance.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Shaw was the first authorized researcher to study science-policy interactions in the development of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers and Synthesis Reports (2001). She has since designed, led, and managed large research teams focused on accelerating local climate solutions and community-scale sustainability, through the Local Climate Change Visioning Project (2006-2009), Meeting the Climate Change Challenge Project (2011-2013), and the Integrated Climate Action for BC Communities Initiative (2018-2021). Dr. Shaw’s work with ACT on low carbon resilience (LCR) has gained her recognition as a resource for those seeking information on applying integrated and streamlined climate and sustainability solutions. She regularly contributes to the literature and scholarship on climate change and sustainability in decision making.

Under Dr. Shaw’s leadership, ACT will build upon the thought leadership and networks of co-founder and nationally recognized predecessor, Deborah Harford, and strengthen further its reputation as a state-of-the-art research-to-practice hub. She will work closely with SFU’s Vice President of Research and International’s Office to elevate and amplify climate change and sustainability partnership and co-creation opportunities, promoting the strengths of SFU as a higher education leader in mobilizing relevant knowledge for sustainable practices across all sectors to help us all go further faster.

Advisory Board and Team Members

Deborah Harford, Senior Advisor | ACT co-founder >

Deborah Harford is Head of Philanthropy and CEO of the Foundation at Legible Media Inc. As the former executive director of ACT, Deborah was responsible for development of the initiative’s pioneering vision and its partnerships with the public, private and philanthropic sectors, as well as overall management of the program. She directed and produced ACT’s research and policy recommendations designed to advance effective, sustainable climate action strategies at all levels of government and across sectors, as well as communication and promotion of the program’s outcomes.

Through Deborah’s efforts, ACT has created networks between local, national and international climate change research practitioners, NGOs, industry representatives, all levels of government, First Nations, and local communities. Deborah’s work with ACT has gained her international recognition as a resource for those seeking information on climate change action and practical coping strategies.

A widely sought-after speaker and facilitator, Deborah contributes to a wide variety of national and international adaptation processes and initiatives on an ongoing basis. Recent examples of engagements and partnerships include Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Expert Panel on Adaptation and Resilience Results (2018), the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks (2019), the Technical Working Group of the Canadian Centre for Climate Services, the Infrastructure & Buildings Working Group of Canada’s National Adaptation Platform, and the Expert Adaptation Panel of the new Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Deborah is a Climate Solutions Fellow at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. She is an Adjunct Professor at SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management and the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment.

Dr. Nancy Olewiler, Advisory Board | ACT co-founder >

Nancy is an economist, Director of and Professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Her PhD is in economics from the University of British Columbia. Nancy’s areas of research focus on public policy, including natural resource, energy, and climate policy, and regulation and risk. She has published in academic journals, edited books, provided reports for governments, has written two widely used textbooks, and teaches graduate courses in policy analysis, economics, and regulation. Nancy has served on a number of boards of directors including BC Hydro, Powertech, and TransLink. She is currently is a member of the Climate Solutions Clean Growth Council for BC, and also serves on the board of directors for the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Technical Safety BC, Genome BC, and the Pembina Institute. She chairs the Macroeconomic Accounts Advisory Committee for Statistics Canada. https://www.sfu.ca/mpp/faculty-associates/nancy-olewiler.html

Dr. Stewart Cohen, Advisory Board >

Stewart is a former senior researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada. He has contributed to more than 125 publications on climate change impacts and adaptation, including a textbook, “Climate Change in the 21st Century”, published by McGill-Queens University Press. Dr. Cohen has been a member of author teams for national assessments of climate change in Canada and the United States, as well as several publications of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He currently produces a blog on climate change, which can be found at www.doctorclimatechange.com

Kacia Tolsma, Program Coordinator >

Kacia Tolsma is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser Univeristy’s School of Resource and Environmental Management Planning Masters. Her research focuses on green infrastructure, natural assets, and public engagement. As a Research Assistant for ACT, Kacia has helped develop numerous resources for communities. Kacia is also the recipient of the 2019 CIP President’s Scholarship and was the 2019/2020 co-president of the REM Planning Students Association. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Geography from the University of Victoria.

Chloe Repka, Research Assistant >

Chloe is a recent graduate from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography (Environment & Sustainability), which she pursued after completing a Bachelor’s in Law from King’s College London. Chloe brings her knowledge and experience from both fields to her work at ACT, where she performs qualitative analysis on climate-focused municipal projects. She also uses her analysis to inform the development of ICABCCI’s Low Carbon Resilience Framework for Action. On the side, she pursues her passion for food sustainability at Lighter Foodprint, a non-profit looking to help restaurant-goers make more climate-informed food choices through a climate labelling system.

Odessa Cohen, Research Assistant >

Odessa is a graduate student in Simon Fraser’s Resource and Environmental Planning Program. She has a Bachelors of Community Design (Hons Environmental Planning) from Dalhousie University, has 3 years of land use planning experience from Alberta, and is a candidate member of PIBC and CIP. Her research at SFU in the REM program is focused on the use of nature based solutions to develop increased resiliency for rural communities.  As a research assistant for ICABCCI, she will be providing assistance with data analysis to document how case communities implement LCR within their municipal functions through adaptation and mitigation plans.

Paige Hunter, Research Assistant >

Paige is an undergraduate student in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. Her research focuses on equity and justice in community planning, green infrastructure, and natural assets. As a research assistant with ACT, Paige has helped develop a report for the Metro Vancouver Advisory Committees on advancing a biodiversity-led regional green infrastructure network. She is in the process of developing a webinar on the intersection of equity, green space, and public health, and will be bringing this experience to her work with ICABCCI. Paige is a recipient of the Gordon M. Shrum Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship and is a member of the 2020/2021 Faculty of Environment Welcome Team for incoming SFU students. She has been working with ACT since January 2020.

ACT Goals

ACT strives to model the key qualities required to advance systemic climate action that advances resilience and sustainability, which include: translation of research into practice and action; collaboration and relationship-building; bridge-building between practice sectors, NGOs and all levels of government; interdisciplinary scenario and solution development; widespread education and outreach; a focus on win-wins and co-benefits; equitable representation for voices that may not commonly be at the table; contributions to a variety of initiatives led by others; and development of accessible resources and publications sharing the results for a variety of audiences, from decision-makers to practitioners to community groups.

Our Partners

The Bullitt Foundation believes that positive environmental impact begins with innovation and partnership. With grant making focused on the Pacific Northwest Emerald Corridor – specifically, the region stretching from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia (bordered by the Cascades on the east) – the Foundation funds ACT’s special project on Biodiversity-led Green Infrastructure.

Aqueduct Foundation exclusively offers “donor advised funds”, which are charitable giving accounts normally established by individual donors or families. The donors or their designated successors are able to choose the charities their fund supports. Aqueduct is unusual among Canadian charitable foundations in enabling gifts of both income and capital. A fund may have a short-term, transitional purpose, or be structured as a perpetual endowment.

The Morris J. Wosk Centre uses dialogue and engagement to facilitate transformative conversations and create real-world impact for society’s most pressing challenges. They strengthen Canadian democracy by promoting democratic values and innovation, spread best practices by providing dialogue training and tools, and help governments to engage citizens and stakeholders through their consulting services.