City of Selkirk Climate Adaptation Strategy

The City of Selkirk, a small city in Manitoba, agreed to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (CCAS) as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Climate and Asset Management Network, in order to enhance the City’s resilience to climate impacts. In partnership with the Prairie Climate Centre (PCC), City staff researched and prepared a collaborative process to bring the best available climate data and local knowledge together. PCC’s experts educated city staff on what climate change will mean for Selkirk from a seasonal perspective, which allowed staff across levels and departments to think about the potential impacts and identify the consequences the community would likely deal with throughout all service lines and seasons. This CCAS identifies some of the likely impacts climate change will have on municipal service delivery for the City, with the highest risk impacts identified as physical heat stress, vulnerable population health issues, and human health (and other) concerns surrounding urban fire.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In developing the CCAS, the City of Selkirk partnered with local climatologists and climate change adaptation experts at the University of Winnipeg’s PCC. The PCC’s evidence-based approach – combining climate data, community-based research, and digital storytelling – follows the best practices in climate adaptation and communications. Climatic risks facing the community of Selkirk differ seasonally, and include extended and possibly more severe storm season, very hot temperatures, polar vortex ‘cold snap’ events, heat waves, longer, more persistent droughts, heavier rainfall events, heavier, wet snowfalls, freezing rain events, rain on snow events, winter thaw events, and a loss of insulating snow. The CCAS identifies some of the likely impacts that climate change will have on municipal service delivery for the City of Selkirk and undertakes impact and risk assessment processes in order to identify the top risks to the community. The PCC was responsible for developing and facilitating a series of workshops, which brought together the local knowledge of the City’s staff with that of climate experts to develop a robust and collaborative understanding of how climate change will likely affect Selkirk’s municipal service delivery. By systematically assessing how Selkirk’s municipality and service delivery will likely be affected by climate change, the CCAS and associated adaptation actions have a factual basis, clear goals, appropriate policy responses, and can be monitored and evaluated.

Table 6: The final prioritized climate change risks and consequences table. This list helps inform what adaptation actions will have the greatest impact and which service areas will be responsible for implementation.

The image has climate risk and consequences listed on the left hand side of the page, with the highest risk at the top of the page in red, followed by medium-high in orange, medium in yellow, and low in green. Each risk identifies which service area(s) are most impacted by that risk. For example, the top four risks are physical heat stress, vulnerable population health issues, city workers and firefighters experiencing health problems, and urban fire. For physical heat stress, the affected municipal service area (MSAs) include Parks and Open Spaces, Water Utility, and Government Services. For vulnerable population health issues, the affected MSAs include Transit Services, Water Utility, and Government Services. Health concerns from fires includes the Fire Department, and Government Services. And urban fire issues affect Water Utility, Fire Department, and Government Services. The services areas are listed against the consequence for each consequence.

Identifying Actions

The planning framework used in developing this CCAS was largely consistent with approaches developed by the Canadian Institute of Planners, ICLEI-BARC, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Strategy development took place from May 2018 until it was adopted by council in early 2019. Following a series of workshops that identified climate risks and impacts (discussed in the ‘Understanding the Issues’ section), adaptation actions and priorities were able to be discussed more easily. The City of Selkirk decided to focus on those consequences that were given high or extreme risk scores during the risk activity exercise. Once each adaptation action was scored based on the six evaluation criteria (effectiveness, affordability, feasibility, acceptability, equitability, flexibility) the sum of the scores was calculated and this became the assessment score of the adaptation action. Each of the adaptation actions that had a high or extreme risk rating were given a score. The scores were derived as a group and agreed upon during a workshop with all of Selkirk’s team members. Actions were also scored based on investment cost, annual cost, and timeframe. This type of ranking approach shows that the higher the cumulative assessment score, the more preferred the action. CCAS adaptation actions are designed to reduce the vulnerability of the City of Selkirk’s delivery of municipal services and its assets; ensure overall viability of the City’s operations; and increase or maintain the long-term safety and well-being of Selkirk’s citizens.

Implementation

The final prioritized climate change risks and consequences table was developed as a result of this process, which helps inform what adaptation actions will have the greatest impact and which service areas will be responsible for implementation (p. 33). A total of 56 actions were developed to address the top climate impacts facing the City of Selkirk, the list of actions is a checklist for senior management to consider when evaluating potential adaptation actions. When finalizing this list, many adaptation actions were eliminated from consideration if they failed to align with overall City strategic priorities; there was overlap or redundancy with alternative climate change adaptation actions; and if adaptation action assessment scores were simply too low. In order to mainstream adaptation actions into pre-existing business and governance systems, adaptation actions highlighted (table 9) have been converted into tactics (table 10). Planned tactics are tied back to the adaptation actions developed through this planning process. Tactics planned for implementation in 2019, 2020, and 2021 include:

  • Establish a street tree program (2019)
  • Implement street tree program (2020)
  • Establish a tree inventory (2019-2021)
  • Establish an Urban Forest Program (2021)
  • Establish an Aquifer Monitoring program (2021)
  • Include extreme heat and cold respite services as objectives in the recreation facilities feasibility studies (2019)
  • Create a policy and protocol for municipal service delivery during extreme heat and cold events (2020)
  • Amend Asset Management Risk Policy to give greater priority to wastewater renewal projects that include storm sewer separations (2019)
  • Conduct Land Drainage Improvement Study (2021)

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The City of Selkirk was one of 19 communities from across Canada to successfully apply to FCM’s Climate and Asset Management Network program, and this CCAS is the outcome of the City’s work over the past two years. By gathered locally-relevant climate change projections for Selkirk, and discussing the potential implications in the workshop, the team was able to identify the key climate impacts and service areas affected by climate change. A draft of the Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Strategy – including risk prioritization and association adaptation actions and cost ranking – was presented to Selkirk’s senior management and front-line workers to identify any improvements to be made prior to the document being presented to council. This iterative and inclusive approach ensures that the CCAS is robust and supported by the City of Selkirk and its citizens.

Next Steps

The evaluation of each adaptation action against investment and recurring costs has helped to prioritize climate adaptation actions for the City of Selkirk. Once all actions are evaluated, a priority action list ranked from highest to lowest assessment score will help to generate a portfolio of ‘preferred actions’ for consideration later in the CCAS. One of the challenges to successful implementation of adaptation plans is the how these efforts are “mainstreamed” into pre-existing business and governance systems. At the time of writing (2020), the City’s Strategy has been approved by council and has been integrated into its business planning process. Each tactic has been added to the tactical plan. To achieve this, the adaptation actions highlighted (see table 9 in full plan) were converted into tactics (see table 10 in full plan). From here, the tactics were placed in tactical worksheets, which is the City’s process by which strategic plans get aligned and integrated into annual budgets, timelines and associated project implementation. In addition to implementing the adaptation actions, it is important to develop indicators and monitoring metrics in order to measure their effectiveness. To date, the City has completed several actions outlined in this Strategy, including the Street Tree Inventory and the Changes to its Asset Management Policy, with many other actions in progress. Becoming resilient to climate change is not a static process, and therefore it is crucial that the City develop a schedule in which the CCAS is reviewed and updated. To ensure that the City’s adaptation actions remain relevant and successful – for current and future climate change – the CCAS should be reviewed and updated regularly. These updates should reflect on lessons learned, incorporate the latest climate projection data, and continue to match with the ongoing strategic priority setting of the City.