Green Shores 2020: Impact, Value, and Lessons Learned

The Stewardship Centre for BC’s Green Shores® program offers tangible solutions for the implementation of natural shorelines in developed areas, and provides a way of addressing development impacts, including habitat loss and pollution, and climate change challenges (e.g., sea level rise) that are affecting the health of shoreline ecosystems and the ecological services flowing from them. This assessment focuses on the Green Shores program and draws from multiple lines of evidence to address this issue. Currently, functioning in BC, Green Shores is a voluntary incentive program that encourages soft shoreline development through a combination of capacity building, tools and best practice standards for planning, design and construction professionals, local government staff and property owners. This report presents qualitative and quantitative information on the impact and social, environmental and economic value of Green Shores programming for communities in BC and provides recommendations to improve Green Shores’ reach in Canada.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Coastal development challenges around accelerated erosion, biodiversity losses, storm surge flooding and climate change (e.g., sea level rise) combined with socio-demographic trends provide a degree of urgency in seeking sustainable solutions for shorelines that do not rely on engineered structures alone. Pilot applications of Green Shores and Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), in particular, are contributing to the proof of concept needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of nature-based solutions to address development pressures on coastal ecosystems and climate change together. Nevertheless, “on the ground” implementation relative to conventional engineered structures remains limited. The Stewardship Centre for BC (SCBC) is interested in identifying improvements to Green Shores’ application in British Columbia and exploring the scaling potential of the Green Shores model to Atlantic Canada. Since its origins in 2010, Green Shores has advanced to a point where program managers, supporters, participants in program activities, and the wider communities involved have an appreciation for what works and does not work in encouraging the sustainable use of shoreline ecosystems. In April 2018, the SCBC engaged ESSA Technologies Ltd. (ESSA) to assist the organization in understanding and documenting the impact, value and scaling potential of SCBC’s services related to Green Shores. Project objectives include: develop and apply an evaluation framework that incorporates the social, environmental, economic value of Green Shores; identify potential improvements to current Green Shores offerings; Assess the potential to replicate Green Shores in the Atlantic region; and, make recommendations for future action.

Identifying Actions

The Green Shores project undertaken by ESSA comprised four inter-related activities: scoping, social impact analysis, triple bottom line evaluation and an assessment of the scaling potential of Green Shores to the Atlantic region. The project ran from April 2018 – March 2020. This project uses two approaches to understand the impact and value of the Green Shores program in BC: social impact analysis and triple bottom line evaluation (also referred to as extended social cost-benefit analysis). Literature reviews and qualitative research with 13 stakeholders, including representatives from local governments, shoreline professionals and funders, informed a “theory of change” for Green Shores in BC that lays out the hypothesis for achieving social impact, using a framework that links activities and inputs to outputs, outcomes and impact. To understand the benefits the Green Shores approach to shoreline development provides to society using monetary metrics, ESSA developed a methodology grounded in the valuation of ecosystem goods and services and applied it to three Green Shores for Shoreline Development1 (GSSD) case study sites: New Brighton Park, Jericho Beach Park and Riverbend Business Park. This assessment monetizes case study sites’ improvements in generating habitat services, cultural services (mainly recreation) and regulatory services (nutrient cycling, waste processing, carbon storage and flood protection) and assesses the wider impacts of Green Shores program expenditures on BC’s economy. To do this, two different economic tools were employed: cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and economic impact assessment (EIA).

Implementation

The purpose of the project highlighted in this case study was to a) evaluate the effectiveness and success of the Green Shores program in British Columbia, b) provide suggestions for improving uptake of the program in BC, and c) assess the possibility of scaling Green Shores to Atlantic Canada. Given that, recommendations for future action are included in the report; however, these actions do not represent implemented actions, but rather are actions that provide strategic direction in achieving the main objectives of this report (i.e., improve uptake of the program). Recommendations include: 1. Get the incentives right: Adoption of Green Shores techniques is voluntary at present, yet the original intent was to link certification to an incentive. Stakeholders provided a few examples to explore including payment for ecosystem service schemes and user-pay models that link implementation of best management practices on one’s property to utility bill discounts; 2. Link to other change-makers in the system: Initiatives and the community of practitioners promoting the adoption of nature-based approaches in meeting development challenges is growing in Canada; 3. Further target education and outreach in response to apparent barriers and opportunities: Stakeholder interviews and focus groups revealed the importance of i) mobilizing contractors as change agents and ii) raising awareness of the full range of benefits provided by Green Shores projects among provincial actors; and 4. Enhance learning and effectiveness monitoring (i.e., clarify priorities for implementation of Green Shores projects and use priority site archetypes to inform a targeted grant request and call for proposals).

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The theory of change suggests that if awareness of Green Shores approaches and their benefits among municipal staff, local government decision makers, stewardship groups and shoreline professionals as well as knowledge, skills and confidence to explain and implement Green Shores practices are built and access to funding and expertise on where and when to apply Green Shores are in place then mainstreaming of Green Shores concepts and requirements into existing regulatory and planning instruments as well as university curricula will increase, as will trust and collaboration across disciplines. With an enabling institutional environment, enhanced capacity to support adoption of Green Shores and active Green Shores champions operating at the community level, the uptake of Green Shores will increase. Widespread uptake of Green Shores approaches in BC leads to demonstrable benefits for waterfront property owners and coastal environments, including protection from erosion, flooding and sea-level rise; enhanced status and reputation; improved functioning of coastal processes; decreased coastal pollution; and reduced cumulative impacts on shoreline ecosystems. Economic analysis further supports the merits of investing in Green Shores. The net annualized benefits (NAB) of the program are about $6.1 million (2018 dollars), with improved provision of habitat services and cultural services accounting for over 90% these benefits. The corresponding benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is about 7.1. Both indicators suggest investments by the Green Shores for Shoreline Development program represent an economically efficient use of scarce resources. Over the three restoration and development projects, social welfare was increased by about $7.10 for each $1 invested by the Green Shores program.

Next Steps

In addition to the recommended actions outlined in the ‘Implementation’ section, it is also recommended to enhance monitoring requirements for the selected Green Shores projects so that the performance of these projects can be assessed over time. A future goal involves the intention to scale this project to Atlantic Canada; a strategic approach in doing so is outlined within the project report, the actions of which fall within four broad strategies: 1. Ground Truth the Theory of Change for Green Shores Atlantic; 2. Identify and Develop Capacity of a Backbone Organization; 3. Put in place enablers for Green Shores deployment and adoption; and 4. Understand target audiences.