Health, Climate Change and Resilience in Community Planning: City of Port Moody Climate Action Plan

In July 2020, the City of Port Moody adopted a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that strategically addresses both mitigation and adaptation planning by utilizing a low carbon resilience framework co-developed with Simon Fraser University (SFU) Action on Climate Change Team (ACT). The City of Port Moody is a diverse, dynamic and rapidly growing municipality in Metro Vancouver with a population projection of 50,000 by 2041. Climate change projections show that as the climate changes, Port Moody can expect hotter, drier summers; warmer winters with more rain from fall to spring; an increase in frequency and intensity of precipitation; and sea level rise. These changes may lead to increased wildfires, more days with poor air quality and haze, and increased risk to vulnerable populations. The BC Climate Risk Assessment puts human health impacts from heat in the top five risks to the province. Some members of Port Moody are more vulnerable to extreme heat such as seniors living alone, children, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions. In addition to health impacts, climate change is likely to take a toll on municipal resources to respond to and recover from extreme events. Using an integrated climate action framework that considers both mitigation and adaptation aspects of climate change planning, includes a health focus, which provides a number of goals and priority actions to protect and improve health and well-being throughout the community.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Climate Action Committee along with Fraser Health Authority and the staff climate action working group undertook a climate change risk and vulnerability assessment in two separate workshops. The methodology used to complete the assessments borrowed from several existing, well-used adaptation planning processes including ICLEI’s (Local Governments for Sustainability) 5-milestone process. It also mirrors the International Standards Organization (ISO) risk management standard and the recently released Provincial framework for climate risk assessment. Actions to prepare for or reduce the risk of the impact were focused first on high-risk areas and then to medium and lower risk areas. Increasing health impacts (physical and mental) was identified as one of the areas of greatest risk to Port Moody. For example, the BC Climate Risk Assessment puts human health impacts from heat in the top five risks to the province. There were 22 days of air quality advisories in the Lower Mainland in 2018, the most on record. Research by the BC Centre for Disease Control also found that visits to the doctor with asthma or respiratory complaints spiked during the poor air quality days in the Lower Mainland. Repeated extreme events puts pressure on our medical systems, and the mental health of both those impacted and those responding. Often community members are not all impacted to the same extent by climate change. Marginalized groups may be disproportionately impacted by climate change and have lower resources to support preparedness and adapting. Climate change projections show that as the climate changes, Port Moody can expect hotter, drier summers; warmer winters with more rain from fall to spring; an increase in frequency and intensity of precipitation; and sea level rise. These changes may lead to increased wildfires, more days with poor air quality and haze, an increased risk to vulnerable populations.

Identifying Actions

The development of the Climate Action Plan occurred between 2018 and 2020 through the work of a project team including an interdepartmental staff team, consultants, ACT, and the City’s Climate Action Committee. Key actions included engaging with the public, climate scenario modelling, risk and vulnerability assessments, and evaluating actions. The Plan follows an integrated climate action framework that considers both aspects of climate change planning: climate mitigation and adaptation, or low carbon resilience. The Plan identified eight focus areas that are in line with the vision and direction of the City, align with the latest climate science, and incorporate commitments in the City’s Climate Emergency Declaration. Among the focus areas is Emergency Response and Human Health, which provides a number of goals and priority actions to protect and improve health and well-being throughout the community. Informed by climate projections for the region, the human health focus area was developed with the support of Fraser Health, the City’s Emergency Response team, and the Climate Action Committee. This multi-stakeholder involvement helped to incorporate community values and understand strengths and vulnerabilities to climate impacts.

The focus area was guided by two broad goals and considered the impact of action on greenhouse gas emissions where appropriate:
1. Ensure all community members have access to necessary resources and supports related to climate change adaptation (especially marginalized populations)
2. Improve City response to climate-related hazards (including flooding, wildfires, extreme heat) as they impact human health.
Actions fall within three areas: City Operations, Policy, and Education and Partnership. Each action includes the Lead Department, Time Frame, Anticipated Budget, and Status. Examples of actions include:

  • City Operations: Ensure City departments are adequately staffed and equipped to respond to extreme weather events;
  • Policy: Develop an extreme weather response plan with a focus on supporting the most vulnerable populations.
  • Education and Partnerships: Continue to inform and facilitate community education about preparedness across hazards, and build stronger connections with community associations and businesses with the aim of improved preparedness for extreme weather events

Implementation

Actions under the Emergency Response and Human Health focus area include: strengthening city operations to respond to extreme weather events, developing equity informed weather response plans, and continuing education and partnerships. The City’s Policy Planning Division will lead implementation of this Plan, in collaboration with the staff climate action working group. This group will continue to meet monthly and will guide implementation of the Plan as well as developing an equity framework, embedding a climate lens into all decision making, annual reports on progress, and other tasks that arise as necessary. There are many examples of low carbon resilient actions already underway in many communities including Port Moody, such as: green roofs that reduce emissions as well as reduce urban heat and increase absorption of stormwater; and low-emissions microgrids that enhance resilience through decreased reliance on centralized power sources.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

To monitor and evaluate progress, the City developed a list of draft key performance indicators that are aligned with each of the focus area goals and actions and will measure effective implementation over time. Examples of indicators for Emergency response and human health include: Number of improvements to indoor and outdoor public spaces to provide cooling during high heat; Number of staff schedule adjustments due to extreme weather; Percent of residents that can easily walk (400m) or bike (within 800m) to meet all basic daily non-work needs and have safe pedestrian or bicycle access to transit; and Number of community partnership opportunities. The City will monitor progress towards its climate change goals by reporting annually on the implementation status of actions along with these key indicators. Indicators are expected to change as new sources of data are found, new technologies emerge, and implementation details are better understood.

Next Steps

The City has developed an Phase One Climate Action implementation strategy, including indicators, time frame, lead departments, staff resources needed, and financial obligations required. An equity lens will also be created to ensure that the benefits and burdens of climate action are shared as equitably as possible. Implementation of the Climate Action Plan will be iterative and continuously reviewed. The City will review the status of the Plan’s implementation and present updates annually.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Climate Action Committee along with Fraser Health Authority and the staff climate action working group undertook a climate change risk and vulnerability assessment in two separate workshops. The methodology used to complete the assessments borrowed from several existing, well-used adaptation planning processes including ICLEI’s (Local Governments for Sustainability) 5-milestone process. It also mirrors the International Standards Organization (ISO) risk management standard and the recently released Provincial framework for climate risk assessment. Actions to prepare for or reduce the risk of the impact were focused first on high-risk areas and then to medium and lower risk areas. Increasing health impacts (physical and mental) was identified as one of the areas of greatest risk to Port Moody. For example, the BC Climate Risk Assessment puts human health impacts from heat in the top five risks to the province. There were 22 days of air quality advisories in the Lower Mainland in 2018, the most on record. Research by the BC Centre for Disease Control also found that visits to the doctor with asthma or respiratory complaints spiked during the poor air quality days in the Lower Mainland. Repeated extreme events puts pressure on our medical systems, and the mental health of both those impacted and those responding. Often community members are not all impacted to the same extent by climate change. Marginalized groups may be disproportionately impacted by climate change and have lower resources to support preparedness and adapting. Climate change projections show that as the climate changes, Port Moody can expect hotter, drier summers; warmer winters with more rain from fall to spring; an increase in frequency and intensity of precipitation; and sea level rise. These changes may lead to increased wildfires, more days with poor air quality and haze, an increased risk to vulnerable populations.

Identifying Actions

The development of the Climate Action Plan occurred between 2018 and 2020 through the work of a project team including an interdepartmental staff team, consultants, ACT, and the City’s Climate Action Committee. Key actions included engaging with the public, climate scenario modelling, risk and vulnerability assessments, and evaluating actions. The Plan follows an integrated climate action framework that considers both aspects of climate change planning: climate mitigation and adaptation, or low carbon resilience. The Plan identified eight focus areas that are in line with the vision and direction of the City, align with the latest climate science, and incorporate commitments in the City’s Climate Emergency Declaration. Among the focus areas is Emergency Response and Human Health, which provides a number of goals and priority actions to protect and improve health and well-being throughout the community. Informed by climate projections for the region, the human health focus area was developed with the support of Fraser Health, the City’s Emergency Response team, and the Climate Action Committee. This multi-stakeholder involvement helped to incorporate community values and understand strengths and vulnerabilities to climate impacts.

The focus area was guided by two broad goals and considered the impact of action on greenhouse gas emissions where appropriate:
1. Ensure all community members have access to necessary resources and supports related to climate change adaptation (especially marginalized populations)
2. Improve City response to climate-related hazards (including flooding, wildfires, extreme heat) as they impact human health.
Actions fall within three areas: City Operations, Policy, and Education and Partnership. Each action includes the Lead Department, Time Frame, Anticipated Budget, and Status. Examples of actions include:

  • City Operations: Ensure City departments are adequately staffed and equipped to respond to extreme weather events;
  • Policy: Develop an extreme weather response plan with a focus on supporting the most vulnerable populations.
  • Education and Partnerships: Continue to inform and facilitate community education about preparedness across hazards, and build stronger connections with community associations and businesses with the aim of improved preparedness for extreme weather events

Implementation

Actions under the Emergency Response and Human Health focus area include: strengthening city operations to respond to extreme weather events, developing equity informed weather response plans, and continuing education and partnerships. The City’s Policy Planning Division will lead implementation of this Plan, in collaboration with the staff climate action working group. This group will continue to meet monthly and will guide implementation of the Plan as well as developing an equity framework, embedding a climate lens into all decision making, annual reports on progress, and other tasks that arise as necessary. There are many examples of low carbon resilient actions already underway in many communities including Port Moody, such as: green roofs that reduce emissions as well as reduce urban heat and increase absorption of stormwater; and low-emissions microgrids that enhance resilience through decreased reliance on centralized power sources.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

To monitor and evaluate progress, the City developed a list of draft key performance indicators that are aligned with each of the focus area goals and actions and will measure effective implementation over time. Examples of indicators for Emergency response and human health include: Number of improvements to indoor and outdoor public spaces to provide cooling during high heat; Number of staff schedule adjustments due to extreme weather; Percent of residents that can easily walk (400m) or bike (within 800m) to meet all basic daily non-work needs and have safe pedestrian or bicycle access to transit; and Number of community partnership opportunities. The City will monitor progress towards its climate change goals by reporting annually on the implementation status of actions along with these key indicators. Indicators are expected to change as new sources of data are found, new technologies emerge, and implementation details are better understood.

Next Steps

The City has developed an Phase One Climate Action implementation strategy, including indicators, time frame, lead departments, staff resources needed, and financial obligations required. An equity lens will also be created to ensure that the benefits and burdens of climate action are shared as equitably as possible. Implementation of the Climate Action Plan will be iterative and continuously reviewed. The City will review the status of the Plan’s implementation and present updates annually.

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