Adapting to Climate Risk in Coastal Communities: A Review of Three Canadian Communities – Iqaluit, Nunavut
Susan Chalmers, Masters of Environmental Studies Candidate at York, concludes her blog series on climate change adaptation in Canadian coastal communities by discussing the research on climate adaptation activities undertaken by the City of Iqaluit, Nunavut.
In this northern city, the Engineering and Sustainability Department has led climate change adaptation planning within the municipal government for the past five years. While this department coordinates it internally, a number of community organizations, various departments within the territorial and federal governments, and scientists play key roles in adapting to climate change in this capital city.
Presently, the Engineering and Sustainability Department is working with ICLEI Canada to modify its comprehensive, five step adaptation planning framework to suit this community’s needs. The revised framework will take into account the city’s size, resources and other related projects that are currently in progress. This customized planning tool will enable the municipal government to better prepare for climate change impacts and build on its preliminary adaptation efforts.
In 2007, the City of Iqaluit began preparing for climate change adaptation with the Climate Change Impacts, Infrastructure Risks and Adaptive Capacity Project. This project involved reviewing climate trends, understanding impacts to infrastructure, identifying potential adaptation strategies, and developing ways to enhance the city’s adaptive capacity. As part of the study, a range of actions were identified to address risks to buildings, roads, water resources and solid waste facilities from permafrost thaw, extreme weather events and coastal zone changes. Since then, the city has begun to implement some of the proposed adaptation initiatives. A landscape hazard mapping research team is assessing current permafrost conditions and determining the best building materials to use. As the city investigates the location of a new solid waste management site, begins construction and closes the existing landfill within the next two years, it will consider changing permafrost conditions and incorporate adaptation measures. Furthermore, an inventory of existing vulnerable infrastructure is being done as part of Iqaluit’s capital planning process and will be included in the new plan. Lastly, the city is developing a database and state of knowledge document in collaboration with researchers, which will highlight existing climate change research in Iqaluit. In the future, these tools can be updated as additional information becomes available.
Since this initial project, the city has started to incorporate climate change adaptation within high level, long-term municipal plans. Two years ago, the local government updated its General Plan and included references to adaptation. The city plans to create mechanisms to gather more research and monitor effects as well as build adaptive capacity. The General Plan also outlines specific policies to address climate risks to infrastructure and stipulates the need to take a precautionary approach to future development. For example, “new municipal infrastructure will be designed and constructed to specifications that include withstanding projected changes in climate over their expected design life and meet best sustainability practices.” Similarly, “the design, location and operation of key infrastructure will integrate climate change considerations, including permafrost melt, sea level or relative land level rise, increased temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events.” The preceding policies and principle will be followed in the next residential subdivision development. City planners and external expert planners will review the latest climate change data for the area and apply adaptation measures if necessary. The local government also requests that consultants identify climate impacts and how they intend to address them in their proposals for the design of any new municipal buildings. Beyond these initiatives, the plan established water course setbacks near lakes and rivers to address potential inland flooding. Along the coastline, some land has been designated as open space to help protect nearby properties from coastal inundation.
While revising the General Plan, the municipality participated in the second phase of the Atuliqtuq initiative, led by the Nunavut Climate Change Partnership. This partnership has assisted seven Nunavut communities in developing adaptation plans, among other broad goals. Since the local government was already in the process of including climate change adaptation within its General Plan, the Atuliqtuq document was primarily a discussion paper instead of an official adaptation plan. It highlighted climate trends, impacts on infrastructure, climate adaptation within the General Plan, and the importance of sharing information amongst the many actors involved in climate change planning in Iqaluit.
Within the next two years, two additional municipal plans will incorporate climate change. The Emergency Response Plan is currently being revised to reflect a broader range of possible risks to the community, including climate change, and to identify feasible mitigation measures. In 2013, the city will release its first Sustainable Community Plan, which will outline the long-term community vision and goals along with the steps to achieve them. Climate change mitigation and adaptation will be a component. Shortly, the public engagement process will begin for the plan’s development. Residents, businesses, community organizations and other government agencies are encouraged to participate in the planning process through storytelling activities, open houses, workshops and community action teams. The city will use appreciative inquiry to guide these consultations.
Sources: Interviews with municipal employees; the Climate Change Impacts, Infrastructure Risks and Adaptive Capacity Project; 2010 General Plan; Atuliqtuq: Action and Adaptation in Nunavut: Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for Iqaluit; and Sustainable Iqaluit website – www.sustainableiqaluit.ca.
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 28th, 2012 at 4:09 pm and is filed under Case Studies, Climate Change Adaptation, Guest Blog. 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.
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