On Jan. 19, ClimateWest, a Winnipeg-based non-profit, launched with the mandate to “deliver credible, useful, and timely climate information, data, and tools tailored to the Prairie region in support of positive adaptation to climate change,” according to its website.
ClimateWest is a partnership between the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Prairie Climate Centre (based at the University of Winnipeg) and the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (based at the University of Regina). Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of Manitoba and the Government of Saskatchewan are providing financial support.
Jane Hilderman, the executive director of ClimateWest, says the organization will fill an important gap.
“There wasn’t anything on the Prairies that had the regional mandate to deliver climate information and data,” she says.
The aforementioned organizations, however, have laid the groundwork for ClimateWest. The University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) Prairie Climate Centre has produced important work, especially in the areas of data and science communication through its flagship project, the Prairie Climate Atlas.
“The opportunity came forward to work together in a more formalized and ambitious (way) under the banner of ClimateWest,” Hilderman says.
“We get to rely on the great work that has come before us, the experiences, the knowledge and the insights that (the partners) bring to the table,” she says, adding that it has allowed them to accelerate their operations from the start.
Though studies have found that inhabitants of the Prairie provinces are less concerned about climate change than other Canadians, it will have a large impact on all aspects of life. Extreme weather events and droughts will be more likely, which will particularly impact the agricultural sector – a key part of the Prairie economy.
Part of ClimateWest’s mandate is to support clients, such as rural communities and small businesses, that might not have the resources to, for instance, hire employees to work on climate policy.
“We can support a team that is trying to figure out what it means to consider climate risk in an operational business plan and be a resource to them,” Hilderman says.
“We can be highly responsive to what the needs are on the ground, but, more broadly, we’re trying to raise the bar on how we can be more climate-ready as a region,” she says.
“We’ll be developing training opportunities, thinking about audiences that maybe haven’t had the same chance to invest in climate-risk thinking yet,” Hilderman says.
In a press release, Dr. James Currie, U of W interim president and vice-chancellor, says “ClimateWest is an innovative partnership supported by and bridging the Prairie provinces and federal government, which will ensure that our region has high-quality climate services to address the challenges while creating opportunities and prosperity in an era of climate change.”
For more information on ClimateWest, visit climatewest.ca.
Published in Volume 75, Number 17 of The Uniter (February 3, 2021)