Honoured and humbled – that’s how our CEO Julia Langer reacted when she recently received the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence from Ontario Minister for the Environment & Climate Change Glen Murray.  The award recognizes Julia’s decades of environmental work, so let’s take a look at that track record.

Julia is a life-long environmentalist who has worked in the non-profit sector for over 30 years. In her current position as CEO of The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), she leads a small but dedicated team that successfully advances innovative low-carbon solutions for cities. Actions supported and championed by TAF and partners have contributed to Toronto’s climate leadership and reduction of carbon emissions by 22 per cent below 1990 levels – truly a de-coupling of emissions and growth. TAF’s successes under Julia’s leadership include:

  • Crucial support for the campaign to phase out coal in Ontario; it’s the single-largest carbon reduction measure in North America and has all-but-eliminated local smog days;
  • The development and implementation of the Toronto Green Standard for new construction which has pushed the envelope locally and provincially and avoided significant carbon lock-in during Toronto’s condo construction boom;
  • The development of innovative financing tools for energy efficiency retrofits and investment in the retrofit of nearly 20 multi-unit buildings which save energy, money and improve comfort and air quality for residents.

The organization has also embarked on successful initiatives such as the TowerWise energy efficiency retrofit program; the LightSavers program that demonstrated and de-risked the viability of outdoor LED lighting; research to pave the way for electric vehicles in the Toronto region; and co-development of Toronto’s climate plan with TransformTO, which Toronto City Council recently approved unanimously.

The honour for Julia Langer comes at the heels of the 2015 ministerial award for TAF’s TowerWise program.

One of Julia’s standard lines is that “TAF punches above its weight because of our partners, we rarely do anything alone.” Examples of her commitment to collaboration includes working with various a range of stakeholders to advance energy efficiency policies and practices (e.g. energy reporting and benchmarking rules in Ontario), co-founding several new organizations and projects, and incubation of a new energy efficiency financing company called Efficiency Capital Corporation.  Prior to her appointment as CEO in 2009, she served on TAF’s Board of Directors.

Julia worked for 17 years at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada where she established and led campaigns to address climate change, protect marine turtles and create marine protected areas in Cuba, and ban toxic chemicals and advance sustainable agriculture.

The current TAF CEO was also at the helm of the Canadian chapter of Friends of the Earth, worked at Pollution Probe, Great Lakes United, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and served as a policy advisor to Ontario Minister of Environment Jim Bradley in the mid-1980s.

As a perennial optimist and problem-solver, Julia always looks for creative ways to achieve significant environmental progress.  She does this by tapping into the economic, social and political interests and motivations to achieve mutual benefit.

Julia holds a degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Toronto. She lives and breathes her commitment to the environment as a year-round cyclist, avid vegetable gardener, and wilderness canoeist.

We trust that the Minister’s award will only spur Julia on to more accomplishments in the fight against climate change.

– With notes from Sandra Odendahl, Chair of the TAF Board of Directors