The City of Mississauga is attempting to find solutions to mitigate climate change effects by getting students involved.

On October 19, 2020, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie announced a challenge for high school and post-secondary students to participate in Mississauga’s climate change action. “Mission to Earth: Climate Change Youth Challenge” is an initiative for students to propose policies and ideas for the city to consider in the fight against climate change. 

Mayor Crombie also acknowledges the importance of involving the youth. “Youth are powerful advocates for climate change action and sustainability and will be instrumental in solving some of the biggest climate concerns facing Mississauga,” said Crombie in a news release on October 20, 2020.

The Medium interviewed Diana Suzuki-Bracewell, the supervisor of the environmental outreach team at the City of Mississauga, to discuss the significance of this step. Moreover, to involve students in this initiative and the discussions surrounding how they can help the city improve its environmental impacts and advance the Climate Change Action Plan. 

“The Challenge provides participants an opportunity to meet with mentors who are subject matter experts to advise and give guidance on their projects,” said Suzuki-Bracewell. “Registration was open to Mississauga youth ages 14-25, but we welcomed any interested youth from Peel Region or beyond.”

The environmental outreach team is currently developing programs and opportunities within the Climate Change Action Plan to encourage engagement among Mississauga youth. While registrations for this year’s challenge were closed on January 31, recent discussions include the possibility of relaunching the climate challenge next year.

“Youth have been identified as a key target audience to engage in climate action,” stated Suzuki-Bracewell. Much like Mayor Crombie, Suzuki-Bracewell emphasized the importance of youth involvement in climate change initiatives.

“The city recognizes that youth are powerful advocates for climate change and sustainability and play a key role in calling for action from all levels of government,” she stated.

The City will also be organizing a Climate Change Youth Summit sometime around April and May. The summit will include the submitted challenges of the youth teams in two categories: secondary and post-secondary. The award recipients will then be announced after an evaluation by a panel of judges. 

Suzuki-Bracewell also discussed major initiatives the City of Mississauga will implement in the coming years.

“This year, we will also be launching a new campaign, ‘Climate Stories’ in partnership with Mississauga Museums,” stated Suzuki-Bracewell. “We are super excited about this initiative, as the Mississauga community will have an opportunity to share their stories related to climate change.”

Additionally, the city has been developing a Climate Change Coolkit, an online resource for Mississauga citizens to take climate action.

“The city will also be kicking off our first Urban Agriculture strategy in 2021,” added Suzuki-Bracewell. “We are looking forward to engaging the community on local food and food security.”

Suzuki-Bracewell went on to discuss the various programs and campaigns the environmental outreach team has planned for the near future such as the annual Earth Day celebrations they host in April.

“We will be hosting a series of events that will feature opportunities for residents in Mississauga to engage in local climate action to protect and enhance our environment,” stated Suzuki-Bracewell.

 The Medium also spoke with Ahmed Azhari, director of utilities and sustainability at the University of Toronto Mississauga, who is also a mentor for the youth challenge. 

His role as a mentor will involve advising participants about their projects throughout the challenge. “I will share my time, expertise, experience, and knowledge with teams to provide support and advice on the team’s project,” stated Azhari.

Azhari also went on to acknowledge UTM’s involvement in the fight for climate change, including the development of a new campus Sustainability Strategic Plan. A draft version of the plan was published on September 23, 2020.

“Our campus has already made substantial strides,” he stated. “The Sustainability Strategic Plan builds upon university and campus-wide efforts and formalizes a strategy toward a more sustainable UTM.”

Suzuki-Bracewell expressed to The Medium that although the climate challenge was targeted toward Mississauga youth, she hopes that everyone will be encouraged by their dedication to climate activism.

“Everyone has a responsibility in regard to climate change, and we know youth have been a key driving force,” she stated. “Ultimately, we all have a role to play and need to get involved to transform Mississauga into a world-class green city and take action on climate change.”

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