Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Plan

The Town of Canmore, located in the Bow Valley within Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, is taking steps to address climate change and ensure Canmore is safe, prosperous, and resilient in the future by developing a Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Plan. Projected changes in average temperature and precipitation for the Bow Valley will have broad consequences across the natural environment, including the size of our glaciers, winter snowpack, streamflow, wildfires and forest pests, and regional ecosystems. There are many climatic impacts associated with the projected changes, with consequences for municipal infrastructure and services, private property, the local economy and environment, and the health and lifestyle of citizens. In order to enhance local community resilience and take advantage of potential opportunities, the Town has developed this Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Plan.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

To provide a perspective of historic climate trends in the Bow Valley Corridor, data was collected and analyzed from six climate stations in the region. climate projections, impacts, and risks included observed local trends as well as local climate data that was collected and analyzed from six climate stations in the region. These climate stations were selected because the data cover multiple decades, are high quality, and the stations span an area that is comparable to the same area for which climate projections are available. Climate projections for the Bow Valley Corridor, for the 2050s, were derived using the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium’s (PCIC) Regional Analysis Tool. Projected climate hazards include changes in precipitation; extreme weather events (wind, blizzards, precipitation); changes to cryosphere; and increasing temperatures. In identifying risk, this case study is grounded in existing standards for risk management based on the ISO31000, Risk Management – Principles and Guidelines. Workshops (facilitated by All One Sky Foundation) were held with Town staff and other local stakeholders to identify, assess, and evaluate climate-related risks and opportunities facing Canmore over the next several decades. In total, twenty-two risks and opportunities were identified, of which eight risks and three opportunities were defined as priorities for action planning. Priority risks for action planning include forest fire; Now river flooding; creek flooding; stormwater system overwhelm, leading to localized flooding; extreme wind; water supply shortage; heavy snowfall event, blizzard; and changing freeze-thaw cycles. Priority opportunities for action planning include increase in summer season recreation opportunities; extended construction season; increase in winter tourism competitive advantage.

Identifying Actions

The Town of Canmore worked with All One Sky Foundation throughout the climate adaptation planning process, which consisted of four steps:

  1. Define context (scope, stakeholders, weather, climate and impact data);
  2. Assess risks & opportunities (identify, analyze, evaluate);
  3. Formulate actions (identify actions, screen actions, develop actions);
  4. Implement (implement plan, review and update).

A list of prioritized risks were identified, as outlined above in regard to wildfires, flooding, stormwater system overwhelm, extreme weather, and water quality and quantity concerns as were opportunities related to increasing summer season recreation opportunities, extended construction season, and an increase in winter tourism competitive advantage. In developing adaptation actions, meetings with Town staff and other local stakeholders were held, focusing on actions to mitigate the medium and high priority risks and opportunities (outlined above). Participants articulated potential actions to achieve the stated objectives and were encouraged to think broadly and to consider all categories of potential actions, including research and monitoring, early warning systems, hazard information provision, awareness raising, operations and practices, bylaws and plans, technologies, infrastructure (hard and soft), and economic instruments. Given municipal budget constraints, the project team characterized the identified actions based on investment costs, annual costs, timeframe, and implementation lead. Then, the identified actions were evaluated based on effectiveness, affordability, feasibility, acceptability, equitability, and flexibility.

Implementation

Implementation of adaptation actions is forthcoming. In progressing adaptation implementation planning, and to support priority setting for implementation, all fifty-one actions were characterized in terms of: (1) investment costs; (2) annual recurring costs; (3) timeframe for implementation; and (4) implementation lead. Furthermore, all actions were screened and rank-ordered against a number of criteria commonly used prioritize climate adaptation and resilience actions, including effectiveness, affordability, acceptability and flexibility. This process helped to identify priority actions for implementation.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Prioritized actions and implementation information resulted as an outcome of the planning exercise, which will be key to enhancing community resilience to climate change. A lesson learned includes the realization of the importance of mainstreaming resilience into climate action planning (also referred to as enabling actions). In regards to mainstreaming resilience into action planning, some key lessons include: Climate resilience should be considered in all future land use and development decisions, including administrative processes such as bids, tenders and contracts for planning and development work; Strategic plans (e.g., the Municipal Development Plan and the Open Space and Trails Plan) and neighborhood scale plans should consider potential future climate change impacts; and Decisions related to the design, maintenance, and upgrading of long-life infrastructural assets and facilities should likewise consider future climate changes and impacts.

Next Steps

The climate resilience action planning process is dynamic. For a start, the rapidly changing scientific knowledge about the physical impacts of climate change means that climate change risk and opportunity assessments are not one-off activities, but rather need to be reviewed and updated regularly. This Action Plan should be reviewed and updated every 5 years to ensure it remains relevant and effective, taking account of:

  • Lessons learned from the implementation of actions;
  • New scientific information about climate projections and corresponding impacts; and
  • Changes to the Town’s goals and policies.