Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for the Community of Prince George

The City of Prince George, located in northern BC, has undertaken considerable work in better understanding the impacts of climate change on road infrastructure and natural areas in order to reduce its vulnerability to river flooding and forest fires. In 2009, Prince George was one of the first municipalities in Canada to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Now, approximately a decade later, as the impacts of climate change have been increasingly imminent, the City of Prince George has a renewed focus on continuing to improve the community’s adaptive capacity. In Prince George, the climate is changing at an accelerated rate compared to the global average, and is expected to experience increasing annual mean temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and more frequent and extreme weather events. As part of the Adaptation Changemakers project with ICLEI Canada, the City of Prince George worked with community stakeholders to develop updated adaptation strategies for the community of Prince George.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In Prince George the climate is changing at an accelerated rate compared to the global average. To develop the projected impacts of climate change on the City of Prince George, models and scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report were used. The Climate Atlas and Canadian Climate Data and Scenarios tools were utilized to access downscaled climate data for the area. Temperature and precipitation are the parameters that were included as part of the assessment phase. Findings include increased temperature, increased precipitation in fall, winter, and spring, and increased intensity of rainfall. This report was developed to guide climate change adaptation strategies for the community of Prince George and provide updated climate projections and action items to the City of Prince George’s 2009 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. The process involved a wide range of stakeholders that represented social, economic, infrastructure and environmental sectors. The diversity of stakeholders involved throughout this process provided a significant opportunity for engagement on climate change adaptation in Prince George. Stakeholders identified risks and vulnerabilities that Prince George may face in a changing climate, and conceptualized actions needing to be implemented across various sectors. Sixty impacts to the built and natural environment and social and economic systems were initially identified for the community of Prince George utilizing the local climate projections.

Identifying Actions

The City of Prince George followed ICLEI Canada’s Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities 5-milestone planning framework in this iteration of impact and risk identification and action planning. Following identification of climate projections and impact assessment, risk and vulnerability assessments were conducted to prioritize the climate change impacts, resulting in the development of eighteen priority climate risks for the community of Prince George. These 18 climate risks were utilized to brainstorm goals and actions to reduce community vulnerabilities related to the identified top climate risks for Prince George. High and medium-high risks for Prince George include increased wildfire risk impacting infrastructure, ecosystems, and people; increasing demand on emergency management and health services; overland flooding and increased slope instability; risks of hotter temperatures on local ecosystems; and, decreasing capacity of soil to absorb stormwater, resulting in increased flooding. To provide a strategic framework and direction for the Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for the Community of Prince George, the actions identified to address local risks have been divided into four core objectives, with five corresponding themes. The four objectives and corresponding focus areas are: Strengthen Infrastructure Resilience and Reduce Risk to Buildings and Property (focus areas: transportation, buildings, infrastructure); Protect Public Health and Improve Economic Resiliency (focus areas: emergency response, health and well-being, economic resilience); Enhance resilience of Ecosystems and Protect Natural Areas (focus areas: slope stability, stormwater, river flooding, water supply, forests and wildfire, ecosystems); and, Integrate Climate Change Thinking and Response (focus area: governance and education).

Implementation

A total of 48 actions, falling out among the Objectives and Focus Areas outlined in the ‘Planning’ section, were identified, and are accompanied with detailed implementation schedules. Actions are categorized based on goal, and the strategies document includes 18 climate adaptation goals. An example of the types of actions included in this plan and organization is as follows:

  • Objective 1: Strengthen infrastructure resilience and reduce risk to buildings and property
    Focus area: Transportation infrastructure
    Goal 1: Improve resiliency of transportation infrastructure to a changing climate

    Actions:

    • Action 1.1: Evaluate opportunities to improve road design and maintenance procedures to accommodate increased impact of freeze-thaw conditions
    • Action 1.2: Improve winter travel conditions and maintain road safety for all road users.
    • Action 1.3: Explore how transportation networks (e.g., roads, transit, and airport) can be enhanced to better facilitate emergency response and business continuity in severe weather events.
    • Action 1.4: Provide reliable transportation alternatives to diversify mobility options and increase redundancy.

Potential supporting actions were outlined for each action and implementation schedules were developed for each action focus area. Implementation schedules include information on climate change impacts, work that has been completed so far, municipal role, possible partnerships, possible financing options, and potential co-benefits.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

This document is intended to guide the City of Prince George and community partners to prepare for the impacts of climate change. As such, a strong focus on implementation, governance, and monitoring is essential to improving adaptive capacity in Prince George. It is intended that the Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for the Community of Prince George. will be “municipally-led and community supported”. The benefits of this model are that it enables the City to play a leadership role, while working together with community stakeholders for implementation. It also potentially allows for the leveraging of capital of the community for those actions that are beyond municipal responsibility. The Environmental Services Division will be responsible for ensuring the identified actions are incorporated into an integrated Climate Action Strategy for the City of Prince George. This division will be responsible for monitoring and tracking progress on the actions identified and providing adaptive capacity improvements for reporting in the City’s annual support. The Environmental Services Division will take the lead on working with internal municipal departments and community stakeholders to build resiliency to climate change in Prince George. This Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for the Community of Prince George document will guide the development of the City’s Climate Action Strategy (which is currently in progress).

Next Steps

It is recommended that a coordinator position be established as a main point of contact for the CCCAP. This person would act as a liaison between lead and supporting organizations, City Council, Municipal staff and the community. It is recommended that the City continue to maximize available funding opportunities to advance the implementation of adaptation actions. Various funding avenues are highlighted within the strategies document. The long-term success of the plan hinges upon an informed and involved community taking part in ongoing conversations about climate impacts and the benefit of climate action. The conversation must translate to action on both the individual and community-level. Integrating climate awareness into the mainstream practices and thinking of all community groups, residents, visitors and municipal staff will be essential in successfully maximizing our resiliency potential. Monitoring metrics have not yet been identified for each action. However, for actions that can be led or supported by the City of Prince George, this process will occur as a part of the development of the City of Prince George Climate Action Strategy. The next steps will be for the City of Prince George to prioritize the actions in this document to guide for implementation in the Climate Action Strategy. Priority will be given to actions that can be mainstreamed into current planning schedules and existing operations. Planning from a budgeting and work plan perspective for the mid-to-longer term actions will also begin. Following the completion of the Climate Action Strategy, it is recommended the strategy is reviewed and updated every five years.