Bahareh Toghiani Rizi: Policy analyst, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

I support the development of legislation, regulations,.

I support the development of legislation, regulations, policies and programs related to provincial air quality and climate change in Ontario.

I did my bachelor in environmental science at Simon Fraser University with a chemistry concentration, which gave me a great background on environmental issues from a scientific perspective. I ended up doing a master’s at York University in environmental studies because I was interested in how urban planning and policy could be used to manage energy production and consumption in sustainable developments.

Specifically, the program allowed me to focus on learning about how climate change policy, urban planning and sustainable energy management can be integrated to develop effective approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change in Canadian municipalities. A broad knowledge of climate change issues has been essential in my work experience so far.

I’ve always had an inherent interest in environmental conservation and in solving environmental problems. There were a number of factors that influenced my decision to apply for the master’s, but my research interest mainly developed from my stakeholder position on BC Hydro’s Electricity Conservation and Efficiency Advisory Group. Specifically, I participated on two sub-working groups – one focused on making changes at the societal level, and the other on net-zero communities – that sparked my desire to understand how urban planning and policy could be used for sustainable energy management at the local level.

At the time, I had an idea of what each of these disciplines meant, but I didn’t have a deep understanding. I was eager to understand them and their connections more thoroughly. At York, I was able to integrate my interests in learning about climate change policy at the local level, urban planning and sustainable energy management. My supervisor was focused on energy policy, whereas my adviser had a background in land-use planning.

My first position after graduating was climate and energy planner with ICLEI Canada, a non-profit organization focusing on sustainability issues at the local level. This involved acting as the lead technical contact for the Partners for Climate Protection program, a network of almost 250 Canadian municipalities that have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and acting on climate change.

It’s a pretty competitive job market right now. A lot of students graduating want to work in the field. I don’t think there are a lot of direct opportunities to work on climate change initiatives. But that’s not to say there aren’t indirect employment opportunities in sectors that have an impact on climate change.

One challenge on the job has been understanding how the system works. As with any large bureaucracy, there are a lot of processes and procedures. Becoming familiar with the system and being able to navigate it takes time.

The best part of my job has been putting into practice the knowledge and skills I gained from my academic and work experience. There are a lot of opportunities for climate change mitigation in the province, and it’s exciting to be able to work on climate change issues.

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