Shannonn Miedema

By Alison DeLory

Shannon Miedema (MES’04) is a climate leader focused on less, not more.

A director of the Environment & Climate Change team for the Halifax Regional Municipality, Miedema is driving implementation of HalifACT, the city’s climate action plan. Its goal? Net-zero emissions by 2050.

It’s ambitious, but Miedema says the city doesn’t have a choice. “It’s what we have to achieve. The science tells us it is not optional.”

Video: HalifACT: Our Climate Action Plan

Miedema has been a strong advocate for the environment since childhood. Her commitment to protecting the natural world intensified during high school and her undergrad, and brought her to Dalhousie where she completed a Masters in Environmental Studies under ecological economist Dr. Peter Tyedmers.

While there’s great variety in her job, Miedema breaks it down into three main functions: adaptation or “climate resilience” (safeguarding infrastructure, people, and places against climate impacts), mitigation (driving down emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency in buildings and transportation), and environmental sustainability (watershed management, wetland protection).

A tangible example of how her work comes to life is Halifax’s recent acquisition of a refrigerated truck. It will be both a mobile food market and available during power outages—on the rise due to extreme weather events—to drive through communities facing food insecurity, allowing residents to store food from their freezers inside the truck until power is restored.

Miedema consistently brings a strong social justice lens to the work, saying, “I’ve always been fired up by things that seem unfair.” The inequities laid bare by COVID and environmental racism motivate her further.

She says while her work is full of challenges to overcome, it’s also her dream job. It’s highly collaborative and requires building relationships with partners like Dalhousie. Dal’s Office of Sustainability and departments like Facilities Management and Ancillary Services have been preparing the university to meet the challenge of net-zero emissions by 2050 by incorporating energy sustainability into policy, planning, projects, and operations for more than a decade.

Miedema also partners with Dal’s Faculty of Architecture and Planning on climate risk mapping and sea-level rise visualization, and to help deliver a public lecture series on climate change. She guest lectures and consults with Dal’s Centre for Water Resources Studies on ways to ensure water quality and ecosystem health, plus she works with ShiftKey Labs, which supports students developing innovative solutions to important local and global programs.

The work all carries a sense of urgency for Miedema, but she remains hopeful. “The window of time is narrowing but we do have an opportunity to get this right,” she says.

Miedema flanked by on her right by Mayor Mike Savage and MP Andy MacLellan when announcing LC3 for Halifax. LC3 is a partnership with Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to make communities more energy efficient.