Adapting to Climate Risk in Coastal Communities: A Review of Three Canadian Communities – Halifax, NS
Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Nova Scotia:
Susan Chalmers, Masters of Environmental Studies Candidate at York, continues her installments on climate change adaptation in Canadian coastal communities by discussing the results of her research. The current blog highlights the adaptation work underway in Halifax, Nova Scotia
In 2004, the regional municipality began to develop Climate SMART – the Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit. The main goal of this initiative is to mainstream mitigation and adaptation into decision-making and create management and planning tools to help the municipality address climate risks and reduce emissions. A steering committee, comprised of members of the municipality and the private sector, formed the conceptual model, while a working group of government officials created specific policies and strategies. Currently, the Energy and Environment Office coordinates and oversees climate change planning in the municipality. Compared to Saanich, Halifax Regional Municipality’s approach to climate change adaptation has been to incorporate it into the regional plan, various functional plans and municipal policies instead of creating a separate adaptation plan.
To assist its business units in preparing for and reducing climate impacts, the regional municipality developed a number of tools, including cost/benefit assessments, community based vulnerability analysis, sustainability analysis, environmental impact assessments, a Climate Change Risk Assessment Protocol, and a Risk Management Strategy. In creating the latter document, Halifax primarily followed the Canadian Standards Association’s risk management guidelines, which consists of the following six steps: 1) initiation; 2) preliminary analysis of impacts and vulnerabilities; 3) risk estimation; 4) risk evaluation; 5) risk control; and 6) action and monitoring. This strategy clearly outlined a number of possible adaptation actions for different departments in order to address impacts to water resources, infrastructure, coastal zones, and other sectors. Some have been implemented along with new measures.
To minimize water resource and infrastructure risks, the Halifax Regional Water Commission is adjusting its rate structure to increase water conservation, adopting best practices to minimize leakage in its distribution system, securing additional water supplies, upgrading wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to withstand future climate projections, and offering lower rates to customers who adopt measures that reduce stormwater runoff (e.g. green roofs or permeable pavement).
Infrastructure and Asset Management is also instituting specific actions for its area of responsibility. The forthcoming Urban Forest Strategy will allow for alterations to the species mix in parks to take into account climate change. Meanwhile, new municipal structures currently need to be LEED standard. In the near future, standards for its own buildings will be upgraded so they better adapt to climate change. Besides these preceding measures, this business unit has conducted vulnerability mapping of the social, built and natural environment around Halifax Harbour. These assessments assist the municipality in planning for climate related emergencies and making effective planning decisions. For example, new construction along vulnerable sections of Halifax Harbour now needs to be negotiated through development agreements on a case by case basis for large projects. In addition, developers are required to consider sea level rise and storm surges impacts and institute appropriate adaptation measures in project applications and construction.
Similar to the preceding department, Community Development is taking action to minimize potential damage to infrastructure. It published “A Developer’s Guide to Risk Assessment,” which identifies climate projections and impacts, explains how to evaluate risks, and provides a checklist for buildings and development in order to foster climate adaptation by the land development community. Land use policies and by-laws also exist to institute setbacks along the shoreline or inland waterways in order to limit risks from inland flooding or coastal inundation.
A fourth department, Fire and Emergency Services, regularly educates residents on emergency preparedness. In order to enhance community and household preparedness for climate related emergencies, the Energy and Environment Office in consultation with the Emergency Management Organization developed a guide entitled the “Community Action Guide to Climate Change and Emergency Preparedness”. To provide additional assistance to high risk communities, these entities have jointly conducted some climate change planning workshops on portions of this guidebook and will continue to offer them in the future. During these sessions, participants map various types of vulnerabilities and are encouraged to develop a community action plan to help them until emergency personnel arrive. Fire and Emergency Services also has Joint Emergency Management Groups that act as a resource for rural, isolated and vulnerable communities during emergencies. They liaise with the Emergency Operations Centre, help community groups plan and respond quickly in emergencies, and assist vulnerable demographic groups. In recent years, the number and severity of forest fires has risen in the region. To address this particular type of emergency and the occasional challenges with reaching fires during extreme weather events, this business unit has been increasing its capacity and resources. For example, it now uses additional types of vehicles, new water sources and different access roads.
Beyond specific business unit actions, HRM is one of numerous organizations involved in the Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Project. It has been active in several initiatives within this broader project, including wave run-up and seiche modelling for Halifax Harbour; the Halifax Harbour Sea Level Rise Project; impervious surface, stormwater, and sediment modelling; and water resource modelling, among others. Some of the modelling efforts have already influenced municipal policies and actions. For instance, wave run up and seiche modelling results are being incorporated into land use by-laws. Meanwhile, Northwest Arm seawalls are being upgraded to reflect one-hundred year climate predictions to provide more long-term protection to properties.
Sources: Interviews with municipal staff; the Climate Smart: Climate Change Risk Management Strategy for Halifax Regional Municipality; the Climate SMART Risk Management Strategy for HRM: February 2011 Status Update; and the Climate Smart website. For additional information on Halifax’s climate initiatives, please refer to the following link – www.halifax.ca/climate.
About Susan Chalmers: Susan is originally from Vancouver. She completed her BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria in 2008 and is pursuing her master’s degree at York. Her research interests relate to climate change policy-making and climate justice generally.
This entry was posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 12:14 pm and is filed under Case Studies, Climate Change Adaptation, Current Projects, Guest Blog, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
Comments are closed.