Winnipeg city Coun. Jenny Gerbasi is back from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where she said she observed a political will to care for the environment that has not existed in years.

"We didn't have [it] at the federal level and we didn't have it at the city level," she said, referring to previous government leadership.

"Now, we're seeing it coming together with a lot of political will and that gives me optimism."

But, optimism and conversation about change is not enough, the Fort Rouge–East Fort Garry councillor said.

"We really can't just keep talking.… We have to start planning our communities in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

When it comes to that planning, Gerbasi said it starts with local government representatives being involved in discussions that are traditionally limited to the provincial and federal levels.

"The local level of government is on the front lines of where climate change is affecting people and we have a lot to do with the solutions for dealing with the problems that we are starting to see all over the world and here in relation to climate change," she said.

"I think it's time for local government to step up and do our part … I believe that [Winnipeg] Mayor [Brian] Bowman is committed to this."

While Gerbasi acknowledged there are "a number of steps" the city can take, she was not able to name them specifically, saying those at city hall are having conversations about how to move forward, and that there is a lot of work to be done.

Canadian Environment Minister Pascal Leblond

Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna actively negotiated in the Paris climate talks, says Winnipeg city councillor Jenny Gerbasi, who returned from the talks on Thursday. (Pascal Leblond/CBC)

On an international scale, Gerbasi said Canada's participation at the conference was notable, adding Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna was taking an active role in the negotiations.

"Canada was taking a leadership role and pushing for the rights of indigenous people," she said.

"People … from Kenya came up to us. [They said], 'We're looking for Canadians to tell you how happy we are with your new prime minister, and what he's saying and that Canada is back on the scene in terms of taking action of the environment."