Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the City of Magog

Further to reports published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) on the issue of climate change and municipalities, the City of Magog, in southern Quebec, adopted in 2021 its first Climate Change Adaptation Plan. To build this plan, the City referred to Élaborer un plan d’adaptation aux changements climatiques : Guide destiné au milieu municipal québécois (a French-language guide to assist Quebec municipalities in developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan), published by Ouranos, and worked with numerous stakeholders, including citizens and several local environment and conservation organizations. The plan it produced outlines the main actions needed to increase the resilience of the municipality and its population regarding the impacts of climate change.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

This plan is partially based on the methodology developed by Ouranos (2010), which breaks down the development of a municipal Climate Change Adaptation Plan into five steps: Assessing the impacts of the current climate, Identifying the potential impacts of climate change and assessing vulnerabilities, Conducting a risk assessment, Finding and prioritizing options to manage the risks and, finally, Creating and implementing the Adaptation Plan. However, this methodology was adjusted to include knowledge acquired since the plan was released. The plan sought to increase community resilience to current and future climate conditions by establishing a series of adaptation measures to be taken, especially in the areas of public health and municipal infrastructure. While actions with co-benefits that would also contribute to the mitigation of climate changes are a plus, priority was given to adaptation-focussed initiatives. Each relevant adaptation component detected in the scientific literature and in plans developed by other municipalities in the region was therefore analyzed based on a vulnerability index developed by the City to facilitate decision-making and implementation. Applied across dissemination areas, this index considers sensitivity and capacity to adapt, the latter being calculated namely from the costs and efficiency of the action. The final recommendations are based on adaptation strategies that best reduce vulnerability.

Identifying Actions

The plan was commissioned by Magog’s city council further to reports published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) on climate change and its impacts on municipal issues, such as public health and infrastructure. This plan was also part of the recommended measures in the 2020-2025 Environmental Action Plan for the City of Magog. In-house expertise within the Environment Division was leveraged to assess the vulnerability of each response strategy. These strategies were chosen based primarily on scientific literature and similar documents adopted by other municipalities in the region (and elsewhere in the province) and were also informed by specific input from the population (survey), local agencies, various municipal departments and public resources, such as the Atlas de la vulnérabilité. This enabled the analysis of various adaptation strategies using the methodology developed for the project and the identification of the most impactful low-cost strategies.

Implementation

Given the speed at which the Adaptation Plan was developed and the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan presents adaptation strategies, rather than very specific actions, and strategies that the municipality could implement independently. Furthermore, none of the listed and assessed strategies were removed from the follow-up table, with the vulnerability index of each strategy primarily intended to help the local government make informed decisions regarding its priorities. In addition, a significant portion of the assessed adaptation strategies is already included in municipal and government programs, which facilitates following-up on their implementation and only requires constant monitoring of improvement opportunities. For example, stormwater management initiatives are already in place, like stormwater management regulations for new developments and a program for disconnecting gutters from the sanitary sewer system, but these would benefit from better follow-up. The general implementation of these strategies is expected by 2030.

Outcomes and Monitoring Process

The plan assigns specific follow-up responsibilities to certain employees and identifies various municipal departments involved in the implementation of different strategies. These employees and departments in particular play a role in monitoring implementation opportunities, for example, the availability of new grants or the upgrade of municipal infrastructures. Moreover, several of the assessed strategies regarding municipal regulations can be integrated into the regulatory tools currently under review, especially those relating to the protection of wetlands.

Resources

Link to Full Case Study (in french only)


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

One of the inspirations of this plan is the methodology developed by Ouranos (2010), which structures the development of a municipal plan for adaptation to climate change in five stages: the assessment of the impacts of the current climate, defining the potential impacts of climate change and analyze vulnerabilities, carry out a risk assessment, find and prioritize options to manage risks and, ultimately, produce and implement the adaptation plan. This has however been adjusted to include advances in knowledge since the publication of the guide, the approach of this plan aimed to increase the resilience of the community in the face of the current and future climate by establishing a list of adaptation actions to be undertaken, particularly in the areas of public health and municipal infrastructure. Although actions with co-benefits that would also contribute to climate change mitigation are a plus, priority was given to initiatives promoting adaptation. Each relevant adaptation option identified in the scientific literature and the plans of other municipalities in the region was thus analyzed based on a vulnerability index developed by the City to facilitate decision-making and implementation. Applied at the scale of dissemination areas, this index integrates sensitivity and adaptive capacity, the latter being calculated, among other things, from the costs and effectiveness of the measure. The final recommendations are based on the coping strategies that best reduce vulnerability.

Identifying Actions

The development of this plan was requested by the municipal council of the City of Magog following reports from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) on climate change and its impact on municipal issues, such as public health and infrastructure. This was also part of the actions proposed in the environmental action plan for the City of Magog 2020-2025. The internal expertise available within the Environment Division was used to carry out the vulnerability assessment for each intervention strategy. These have been chosen based primarily on scientific literature and similar documents adopted by other municipalities in the region (as well as elsewhere in the province), as well as with the contribution of specific information. from the population (survey), local organizations, various municipal services and public resources such as the Vulnerability Atlas. It was thus possible to analyze a variety of adaptation strategies with the methodology developed for the project and thus highlight the strategies with the greatest impact at the lowest cost.

Implementation

Given the speed of production of the adaptation plan and the context of the Covid-19 pandemic during its development, it focuses on adaptation strategies rather than very specific actions and focuses on the strategies that the municipality can put in place on its own. Moreover, none of the strategies listed and assessed was eliminated from the monitoring table, the vulnerability index of each aimed above all at guiding the decision-making of the municipal administration in its prioritization choices. In addition, a significant proportion of the adaptation strategies assessed are already part of municipal and government programs, which facilitates the monitoring of their implementation and only requires continuous monitoring of opportunities for improvement. For example, stormwater management initiatives such as regulations on stormwater management in new developments or the program to disconnect gutters from the sanitary sewer network are already in place, but would benefit from better follow-up. The general implementation of the strategies is planned for a horizon of 2030.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The plan assigns specific monitoring responsibilities to certain employees and identifies the various municipal departments concerned with the implementation of the different strategies. Their role is in particular to monitor the opportunities for implementation, for example the availability of new subsidies or the renovation of municipal infrastructures. In addition, several of the strategies evaluated concerning municipal regulations could be integrated into the regulatory tools currently under review, in particular those concerning the protection of wetlands.

Resources