Allied Architectural Professionals Call for Investment in Planetary Health Not Fossil Fuel

Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Morneau, and fellow Cabinet members

The Alberta government just announced $1.5B to support development of the XL Keystone pipeline. As we speak, the Federal government is considering a larger multi-billion $ bail out for the fossil fuel sector as part of its COVID19 stimulus package.

While we need to focus on the acute health crisis, we cannot let decisions be made today that further threaten our collective intergenerational health.

As a sector employing more than three times the number of Canadians the oil and gas sector, as professionals focused on creating healthy built environments, and as citizens who care about the health of our families and communities, we need to stand up and demand divestment from degenerative practices and investment in those that support our collective health and prosperity.

These decisions will be made very soon, and the oil and gas sector is lobbying hard. We must speak out, and we must do so now!

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Link to PDF of the letter (with footnotes and appendices) here

To: Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Morneau, and fellow Cabinet members
From: [Your Name]

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Morneau and Cabinet,

Re: Health Equity and Regenerative Development Stimulus

With the COVID-19 crisis front of mind - underscoring the vital importance and interdependence of our health - I want to applaud your swift and ongoing response to our immediate health and safety; and to extend my gratitude to you and all front-line and essential workers risking their own well-being in support. This crisis is showing us who we are, who we can be, and what we can do when we all work together to safeguard our collective health.

As a global society we are facing the devastating reality of conjoined health crises: the COVID-19 pandemic; and a simultaneous planetary health catastrophe, that while more abstract, dwarfs COVID-19 in scale and scope. The immediate health of our global community requires our urgent response, but we must also ensure that decisions made now do not undermine our collective health into the future - as you affirmed in your speech today.

As professionals committed to creating healthy built environments and infrastructures, we call on you to safeguard the near AND long term health of Canadians by investing in renewable energy, resilient infrastructures, and regenerative community development ; and NOT in fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

Dr. Courtney Howard, President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment asserts that “only 20% of overall health status is determined by health care”; the rest is contingent upon our environments and other practices. Investing in degenerative practices compromises our health, and undermines all investments made in improving it. Projects like Keystone, CGL and TransMountain pipelines commit us to massive future GHG emissions, with toxic effects on surrounding ecosystems and communities ; violating human, civil and indigenous sovereign rights, and imperiling the health of individuals, communities, and the living systems that sustain us.

These costs are more than we can bear. The fracking and burning of fossil fuels alone costs Canadians over $53 billion in direct health-related costs, and 7,100 deaths each year. The toll on ecosystem services and cascading societal costs are estimated by the IMF as “potentially infinite” . Science confirms these costs and deaths will only rise as the planetary health crisis continues. As you tell our children ‘we must trust in science’; and as our leaders, we need you to lead by example.

Employment and GDP are often cited as necessary reasons for propping up degenerative industries; but in reality, these practices undermine our economic health as well. Fossil fuel extraction and refinement costs taxpayers more than it pays; the above damages remaining uncompensated by it’s less than 6% contribution to Canada’s GDP (less than Construction and Real Estate ), and it employs but a fraction of Canadians in comparison to sustainable development. Beyond these facts, global financial leaders agree on fossil fuel’s negative return on investment (ROI): BlackRock CEO Larry Fink confirms that “climate risk is investment risk”; and Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, underscores that “the longer climate action is delayed, the greater the risk of financial collapse will grow.” Continued investment in industries and practices harmful to planetary health erodes our physical, social and economic health, leading to loss of livelihoods and life on unparalleled scales.

Investments in resilience and regenerative development, by contrast, not only create jobs and prosperity, and radically improve direct ROI and cost-benefit ratios , but also place our labour in service of improving the current and future health of our communities and of the living systems that sustain us. The result is the realignment of livelihoods with improving the quality of life for all Canadians, now and in future. Investing in the rapid and just transition to regenerative systems and practices ensures no Canadian is left behind.

As built-realm design and construction professionals—architects, engineers, landscape architects, urbanists, contractors, and others—we recognize that the design, construction and operation of our built environment accounts for nearly 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, and pervasively impacts our societies and the health of the living systems that sustain us. Building to support the intergenerational health, resilience and prosperity of our communities and living systems is possible now, but will require rapid paradigm shifts in thought, action and investment for all involved in its design, construction and procurement. As a community of practice, we have committed to these shifts, but we need your help to act on them at the scale and speed required.

As federal and provincial governments you can support these shifts now by placing health-equity at the centre of policy and investment - supporting procurement, training, education, tools, research, incentives, etc. that:

• Prioritize the holistic, intergenerational health of communities and of the living systems that support them (through regenerative community development (including full implementation of the UNDRIP);

• Prioritize adaptive re-use and retrofits of existing assets as low-carbon alternatives to new construction;

• Where new construction is necessary, mandate net-zero carbon, water and material-toxicity; and incentivize net-positive buildings and regenerative communities;

• Mandate health equity impact (HEIA) and resilience assessments and support remediation plans for buildings, infrastructures and systems to ensure resilience, regeneration and reconciliation is embedded;

• Retool capital asset planning, procurement and management and associated economic valuation models to support all of the above; and

• Support continuing learning, innovation and training to enable rapid and just transitions to this vital work.

As a country, and as a global society, we have an unparalleled opportunity to realign our systems of rights and value with what we value most— our personal and planetary health—and to redesign our built environments, infrastructures and valuation systems to regeneratively, resiliently and equitably support it. We call on you to seize this moment to champion and invest in policies, innovations and practices that deliver on this mandate.
The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the scale of change possible, and we cannot go back to the status quo. We must invest in designing a future that is thriving and equitable for all—now and for all subsequent generations. We have the capability to do this. What we need now is your leadership to empower it.

Sincerely,

__________________

Enclosures:
Appendix I: Signatures
Appendix II: Detailed recommendations
__________________

cc:

Minister Freeland
Minister Duclos
Minister McKenna
Minister Wilkinson
Minister Bennett
Minister Bains
Minister Hajdu
Minister Guilbeault
Minister O’Regan
Minister Blair
Minister Anand
Minister Joly
Minister Qualtrough
Minister Miller
Minister Vandal