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Cultivating Sustainable Cities and Communities by Tackling Climate Change

Two people walking on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa

Climate change is threatening our survival. According to NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet, carbon dioxide is at its highest level in 650,000 years. Global temperatures are increasing, with nineteen of the warmest years having occurred since 2000 and the warmest ocean temperatures having been recorded within the past 20 years. Climate change will continue to accelerate, and societies will need to adapt to survive. As such, a united effort to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change is needed.

Professor Daina Mazutis received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant to study how certain urban construction and development companies around the world are tackling climate change by incorporating zero carbon emission and zero waste goals into their planning processes. Her research will help understand why and how these companies manage to prioritize climate change, and how others can contribute to more sustainable urban design and development.

Project title: Getting to One Planet Living: How construction and development leaders are tackling climate change

We asked Professor Mazutis about her personal interest in this project:

“The UN estimates that 230 billion square meters of new construction will be added to the built environment over the next 40 years – that is the equivalent of adding another Paris to the planet every week. And yet, the construction and development industry has been notoriously slow to adopt sustainable building principles. Therefore, understanding the role of businesses in driving One Planet Living communities is of paramount importance to a more sustainable future.” 

Sustainable urban development

Everyone has a responsibility in the fight against climate change. Individuals, organizations, and nations must make more responsible decisions to reduce their carbon footprint, since every little step can make a global difference. According to the United Nations, cities and metropolitan areas account for about 70% of global carbon emissions and more than 60% of the world’s population, about 5 billion people, will be living in cities by 2030. Sustainable cities and communities are needed to ensure adequate infrastructure and services, to lessen air pollution, and to prevent unplanned urban expansion, which will worsen climate change.

Despite the clear urgency, many organizations still resist changes in policies to fight climate change. The question is why? And how, in the face of general inertia, are some organizations able to accept the challenge to transform their processes? The construction and development industry is a prime example. Rapid urbanization worsens greenhouse gas emissions, has a negative impact on socio-economic conditions, and increases public health concerns. Professor Mazutis will conduct a study comparing eight One Planet Living sustainable urban developments around the globe to help better understand how the businesses involved in these urban development projects are able to commit to reducing their carbon footprint to zero and secure a more sustainable future.

Who will benefit from this research?

The knowledge gained from this work will inform researchers, urban planners, and policymakers, and will promote sustainable construction and development initiatives. Decision-makers in government and industry could use the insights from this work to evaluate alternative options for designing, planning, and building their projects. All societies would benefit from more sustainable cities and communities, which would lessen socioeconomic burdens and improve public health.

Professor Mazutis says, "This research project will contribute to our knowledge of corporate climate change action by providing examples of why and how some transformational leaders in the construction and development sector are tackling One Planet Living. In time, we hope that this will encourage other developers to sustainably innovate their business strategies, leading to the ability of all Canadians to live in communities that are designed with the Earth’s limited carrying capacity in mind.”

Professor MazutisDaina Mazutis is an Associate Professor of Strategy at the University of Ottawa where she also holds the Endowed Professorship in Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability. Her research focuses on leadership, strategy, and sustainability. 

Learn more about Mazutis's work.

About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

Profile Photo of Rania Nasrallah