Incorporate adaptation into community plans, policy tools, and projects working with the public and stakeholders

Adaptation goals, objectives, vulnerability considerations and responses should be integrated into community planning documents (land use plans, neighbourhood plans, site approval plans, etc), policy tools (subdivision servicing bylaws, flood prevention bylaws, development permits, etc.). Rezoning applications and land use plan amendment applications should be reviewed within the context of climate risk (or developers asked to include considerations within their proposals). Public engagement that occurs in relation to the development of new plans or amendments to existing plans should include consideration of adaptation responses. This will be easier in the context of new development. Public consultation on adaptation measures for existing development needs to be carefully considered within the context of neighbourhood development, structures and landscaping that were previously approved by municipal government but now carry a certain amount of risk. Within the context of new development, it can be helpful to engage the public, stakeholders and others on results of a vulnerability assessment, and proposed new content for policy and plans.

Once the climate risk and vulnerability assessment has been completed, develop a set of adaptation actions that will be implemented. Actions should be prioritized based on criteria that reflect community values as well as urgency, cost, feasibility, and the level of co-benefits that each action can achieve. Some communities embark upon a public engagement strategy once they have prioritized their climate risks, to establish levels of community understanding and support for potential actions.

Once the actions have been identified, work to ensure that the appropriate implementation tools and mechanisms are available, in addition to the approval and support of Council, municipal staff and the community to enact the adaptation plan.

Ensure appropriate implementation tools are available

Integrating adaptation responses into key areas of municipal policy, planning, and practice will help build the communities’ resilience over the long term. Land-use planning is a primary vehicle for integrating adaptation strategies that address key risks and vulnerabilities. Understanding strategies for building resilience for current and future community infrastructures, for instance, helps to identify at-risk infrastructure and fiscal planning options at renewal stage.  A tangential example on embedding adaptation policies into plans and policies is from GTI Strategy 10:

 GTI Advice (adapted for adaptation planning):

  • Cast a wide net, and be strategic: Identify all opportunities to integrate the adaptation policy into plans, policies, and by-laws immediately after adoption. Consider the timing for when some or all of the plans will be renewed and embed the adaptation policy strategically
  • Engage: Engage with all stakeholders, including staff and community stakeholders, that will be impacted by when and how adaptation actions are embedded into plans and policy. Obtain stakeholder input on how the plans and policy can be designed and/or amended to result in positive impacts
  • Embed: Proceed with embedding the adaptation actions into the plans and policies selected. Ensure that the clauses and policy are designed to maximize impacts and benefits of adaptation policy implementation. Amend the identified plans, policies, by-laws, and regulations as soon as possible after the opportunities have been identified to ensure that goals and actions included in the adaptation policy remain top of mind for Council, staff and community stakeholders
  • Be adaptable: Adaptation policies and plans are living documents, and should be renewed and amended over time. Include clauses within policy and plans that allows changes to be made to the adaptation policy without requiring additional amendments, for example, “the goals and actions of the Adaptation Plan, as amended from time to time”
  • Be explicit: Refer to adaptation policy goals and objectives within each plan, policy, by-law, and regulation in a specific way, so that the direction set by the adaptation policy and its impact on the plan is clear. The table below describes light and deep approaches for embedding the adaptation policies into plans and other policies
  • Follow up: Ensure that staff and community stakeholders are aware of new and amended policy. For example, if new development permit requirements are introduced, ensure that staff working in the development permit department are trained on the changes

Linking Adaptation and Community Asset Management

A large portion of the infrastructure in Canada is nearing the end of its useful life. This is the result of a significant investment in infrastructure during the 1950s and 1960s, which is now approximately 40 to 60 years old. Unfortunately, this infrastructure will not last forever. With this aging infrastructure, municipalities can expect an increase in maintenance and operating costs, and significant increases for renewal and replacement costs going forward. Infrastructure may also be vulnerable to more gradually changing conditions, such as inundation from sea level rise or changes in the availability of water or energy. These changes may increase the operating and maintenance costs or reduce the lifespan of infrastructure.

Adapting community infrastructure to climate change can take many forms, from physical interventions or structural improvements, to the relocation of assets to more secure locations. Financial and policy changes may also be needed, such as more comprehensive insurance or more thorough health and safety response plans in the event of infrastructure failure

Identifying priority services will help determine critical assets for adaptation risk assessments.  Carry out asset-specific risk and vulnerability assessments with a climate compatibility lens through the lifecycle of the infrastructure to help make more informed decisions about asset operations, maintenance and renewal.

Asset management can be complicated, but at its core it is about understanding of municipal assets and how to manage them effectively over the long term. Asset management (or infrastructure asset management) is a municipality’s plan for how to manage municipal infrastructure in order to provide services to residents and other users in a way that meets their expectations, and is financially sustainable into the future.

Linking adaptation planning and asset management is an important piece of the municipal management puzzle. Successful communities often have a corporate strategic plan to help guide their municipal planning and operations. A strong strategic plan includes the components of asset management, financial reporting, an official community plan, and a long-term financial plan. Including adaptation strategy in current and future considerations of an asset management plan ties in well with these practices, and can help strengthen the development and operation of municipal infrastructure and the services they provide to the municipality. Asset management is critical to providing the data to help establish effective planning.

At the community level, the implementation of community actions and response in collaboration with the public, and community organizations is critical.  Information and suggestions from the public consultation phase will need to be integrated into asset management practices for priority municipality assets, while informing future iterations of strategic community plans.  FCM’s Guide for Integrating Climate Change Considerations Into Municipal Asset Management provides an integrative climate change response for asset management. Also checkout Closing the Loop for additional guidance and case study information in B.C.

It is important that municipalities have strong and future-oriented policy and planning that aligns with operational planning in place. Aligned governance and administration practices that consider climate adaptation will ensure the long-term service delivery, public safety plans, and overall sustainability of the community.

A clear linkage between a climate adaptation plan, asset management practices and other strategic corporate/community efforts entail these elements:

  • Official strategic plan
  • Long-term finance plan
  • Asset management plan
  • Official community plan
  • Financial reports and budgets
  • Asset register

Embedding an Adaptation Policy into Community Plans and Policies

Talk and Hope Encourage Support / Enable Require Provide
Increase awareness (e.g. media releases) without enabling policies and mechanisms Remove or amend policies that prevent or discourage implementation and/or introduce policies that encourage implementation Support adaptation policy implementation through incentives or enabling policies/programs Mandate specific local government and community-wide action to implement actions derived from the adaptation policy Provide community stakeholders with resources or incentives to implement actions derived from the adaptation policy

Finding alignment in planning-to-implementation process is crucial for effective adaptation action. Including adaptation at more operational scales can help with this. For instance, effective adaptation strategies can be applied and implemented through zoning, i.e. development permit areas; servicing agreements, i.e. development cost charges, and bylaws i.e. subdivision bylaws. This helps build community resilience into diverse areas of municipal operations and implementation.

Adaptation to climate change can be used as a strategic lens in other areas of municipal planning and operations. For instance, projections of more frequent and intense precipitation events motivated Gibsons to gain a greater understanding of the communities’ natural assets, i.e., wetlands, foreshore and riparian areas, gullys, parks and forests that retain and/or absorb excess water, that are in essence providing free ecosystem services for the community. Linking adaptation strategies to other areas such as emergency management, enterprise risk management, and watershed management, as well as the long-term financial planning and reporting can ensure both effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Try to ensure that actions from the adaptation plan are prioritized to make it easily implementable, while balancing comprehensiveness in order to ease difficulties with implementation

  • Look for other plans the community has in place (stormwater management plan, emergency management plan, etc) and determine how their objectives contribute to the adaptation plan before delving further into the implementation phase, documenting progress is also very important
  • The above step will allow you to identify appropriate implementation tools for remaining actions
  • Identification of appropriate tools for implementation will help to drive the implementation process. These tools will be used at various times throughout this stage, representing the way in which the adaptation team will reach out to the responsible staff and wider community

Throughout implementation, training of staff, elected officials, and key community stakeholders is a key tool for the execution of adaptation actions. Some examples of training topics that may be required include:

  • New standards or codes of practice
  • Benefits of a given adaptation action (i.e. increasing tree cover in the community)
  • New technologies (i.e. engineered materials or machinery) that may be used in infrastructure replacement; and
  • Rationales behind policy changes, amendments to departmental strategic plans, and consequences of inaction.

Case Studies

Case Study

City of Selkirk Adaptation Strategy

The City of Selkirk’s Adaptation Strategy is a key component of their Capital Asset Management Program (CAMP).  Its approach is innovative in that actions were categorized by specific services areas, as illustrated below:

The City then conducted a risk and vulnerability assessment based on four key climate change scenarios: Increased frequency/intensity of heat waves, Increased frequency/intensity of flooding rains, Warmer winters, and Cold snaps (Polar vortex outbreaks).  Potential risks were then classified by severity and service, whereupon those ranked extreme or high were enacted upon as part of the strategy. Some of the most critical risks are shown below:

Resulting adaptation actions for the risks above were then evaluated using a decision matrix incorporating investment cost, annual cost, and timeframe to implementation:

It’s important to remember that risks and subsequent actions are constantly evolving as new climate models and technologies are developed, and the effects of climate change are realized.  Adaptation plans should therefore be revised every few years to adjust to current conditions.