Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: Acting Now for a Resilient Future

In response to the impacts of climate change, the District of North Vancouver (DNV) developed a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (2017) that will not only enhance the District’s adaptive capacity and resiliency, but also reduce the long-term costs and impacts associated with climate change. The DNV is recognized as one of the best places to live in North America, with a key component of this livability being the District’s mild climate. However, the District’s climate is changing; the main climate hazards included in the Strategy include temperature changes, precipitation changes, extreme weather, and sea level rise. The purpose of the Strategy is to coordinate and integrate District initiatives and to incorporate adaptation considerations and longer-term thinking throughout all District activities. There are 12 action objectives pertaining to natural hazards, built infrastructure, emergency response, and biodiversity. The District is a recognized Canadian leader in disaster risk reduction, having made the commitment to continue to analyze and reduce local disaster risk and to inspire and support other cities to increase their own efforts in implementing disaster risk reduction measures.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Infrastructure design has traditionally been done by engineers and planners looking to past climate conditions; however, given the expected climatic changes (temperature, precipitation, extreme weather, and sea level rise), this is no longer an appropriate indicator of future conditions. The District uses climate modelling in considering the range of projected climatic changes in the area, while understanding the inherent uncertainty associated with climate models. Climate change is expected to impact the District’s ability to maintain current day-to-day operations and services; the District’s infrastructure and systems (e.g., changing weather conditions and sea level rise are damaging grey infrastructure, green infrastructure, and eco-assets); Parks and environment (e.g., The District possesses a variety of invaluable and irreplaceable eco-assets, from saltwater marshes to alpine meadows, many of which are expected to be significantly altered by climate change); and health and safety (e.g., an increase in extreme events can negatively impact community livability and increase risk to human health and safety). With an understanding of these types of changes and their associated uncertainties, interdepartmental working groups considered how the future climate will impact the District’s infrastructure, environment, staff, residents, and responders. The District recognizes adaptation as an opportunity to increase resiliency by reducing long-term costs through risk-based asset management, proactive environmental management and protection, and enhanced public safety systems.

District of North Vancouver Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: Climate Change Impacts

Common climate change impacts that can be expected as a result of four types of climatic change the district will experience.

Temperature change *red: invasive organisms; wildfires; longer and drier summers; Precipitation change *green: soil and sediment erosion; urban floods; overland flows; Extreme weather *orange: landslides and debris flows, windstorms, heatwaves, droughts; Sea level rise *blue: coastal flooding; coastal erosion; storm surges

Identifying Actions

The District of North Vancouver joined ICLEI Canada’s Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities (BARC) program in January 2015 to develop the District’s first Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (CCAS). The BARC program is an internationally recognized planning process that guides municipalities through developing, implementing, and monitoring a CCAS to proactively prepare for local climate-related challenges. The program provides a structured, five-milestone approach to adaptation planning where each milestone builds off the findings of the previous one. The BARC program is considered a best practice and has been widely adopted by government organizations in the Lower Mainland and across Canada. Milestone two focuses on prioritizing climate impacts based on the results of a comprehensive risk assessment. High-risk climate change impacts were those that had a high combined likelihood score and high total consequence score; these were used to focus the District’s efforts during action planning. Milestone three, plan, includes identifying and prioritizing actions. The District used a multi-criteria analysis to evaluate the robustness, ancillary benefits, and available funding sources for each adaptation action. The outcome of this evaluation led to each action falling within one of three categories:

  • Required action = high benefit-to-cost ratio and most resources for implementation are available. These should be implemented as soon as possible.
  • Opportunistic action = medium benefit-to-cost ratio and resources for implementation are likely available. These should be implemented when the opportunity arises or the urgency of the climate impact increases.
  • Possible action = unknown benefit-to-cost ratio and resources to support implementation have not been identified.

Implementation

Many of the identified actions are either being planned, are already underway or have already been completed (e.g. Sea level Rise Risk Assessment and Adaptive Management Strategy approved, Community Wildfire Protecting Plan; Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, etc. In addition, the District has released a Climate Emergency White Paper that further describes the related goals of the District and how these will be incorporated into the District’s Official Community Plan. The District is also in the process of establishing a dedicated climate action team that will be responsible for leading guiding, coordinating, supporting and tracking the DNV’s climate mitigation and adaptation efforts to ensure a cohesive and collaborative interdepartmental approach to achieving the goals and objectives that the DNV has established for both climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. The District regularly participates in regional climate adaptation planning initiatives (e.g., providing input through SFU Adaptation Climate Team Community of Practice, participating in regional adaptation planning efforts through Metro Vancouver’s environmental policy reviews and as a member of the Regional Engineering Advisory Committee – Climate Protection Subcommittee).

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

This CCAS identifies required adaptation actions to proactively prepare for climate change and respond to high-risk impacts across all municipal service delivery areas. To achieve the strategy’s vision, the successful implementation, continuous monitoring, and regular review of adaptation actions and the strategy itself is essential. A draft implementation plan supports each required action by identifying resources to move adaptation into action. The lead department identified for each required action is responsible for implementing those actions by incorporating them into departmental plans, asset management plans, and financial planning processes (e.g., the long-term funding strategy). Other details within the draft implementation plans, such as a completion target, a relative cost, and level of effort, are intended to provide departmental leads with the foundation to carry out each action. However, because the details and prioritization of adaptation actions may change over time, each implementation plan is a living document. Implementation plans are expected to be revised through further collaborative work, facilitate by the lead department, to determine the best approach that will achieve each adaptation action objective. This case study also includes potential indicators for required monitoring actions.

Next Steps

The next steps include the creation of indicators to measure the implementation of each action in order to monitor progress over time. Baseline data should be collected and regularly analyzed for trends to gauge the effectiveness of adaptation actions and better understand drivers and barriers to implementation. Some examples of these drivers and barriers to be aware of include:

Drivers

  • Grant funding available for climate change adaptation
  • Need for efficient integrated work systems
  • Long-range financial planning and asset management planning that requires the District to plan
    ahead
  • Public awareness, public support, and public pressure

Barriers

  • Insufficient resources (e.g., fiscal, technical, and staff capacity)
  • Competing or short timelines
  • Reduced availability of technology
  • Legality and procedural feasibility, including provincial or territorial legislation
  • Path dependency
  • Lack of integration throughout the organization
  • Lack of monitoring and enforcement
  • Lack of high-quality data
  • Uncertainty
  • Behavioral obstacles
  • Lack of public awareness or support

Resources