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Archive for the ‘Climate Change Adaptation’ Category

Summer Blog Series – Kirstin Silvera Blogs from Costa Rica – Climate Change and Costa Rica’s Cloud Forests


Costa Rica's Cloud Forests (Flickr | Creative Commons)

As part of our summer-long blog series, Kirstin Silvera, a member of the CC-RAI team will be discussing climate change and its impact on coral reefs, biodiversity and more from a research placement in Costa Rica. Kirstin is currently a graduate student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and will begin her Law degree this coming fall. In the second of her blog series, Kirstin outlines the impact of climate change Costa Rica’s cloud forests.

Costa Rica is home to a rich amount of species diversity contained in each of its many ecosystems. It is one of the top 20 most biodiverse countries in the world, due in part to its varied geography which provides essential microclimates for many of its endemic species (INBio, 2012). Costa Rica’s landscape spans both the Caribbean and Pacific coastline that begin at sea level and leads into the central mountain range, which rises to over 3000 metres above sea level (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2008). These changes in elevation cause differences in temperature and moisture which allow for a wide variety of distinct ecosystems and endemic species to exist (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2008). Of particular importance are Costa Rica’s montane cloud forests that support many endemic species.

Costa Rica - Cloud Forests of the Montane (Flickr davidgordillo | Creative Commons)

The Importance of Costa Rican Cloud Forests

Cloud forests rely on regular cloud immersion in order to maintain their unique ecosystem (Foster, 2001). Because of its mountainous landscape, Costa Rica is home to several cloud rainforests (INBio, 2012). These cloud forests exist above 1000 metres because of continuous horizontal circulation of precipitation, and are highly dependent on the height at which the clouds form for their existence (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2008). Recent climate models are however predicting that with climate change, Costa Rican cloud forests could be negatively affected as they become warmer and drier (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2008).  If the predicted rise in temperature happens, species ranges in temperate zones are expected to shift upwards of 600 metres in elevation (University of Connecticut, 2008). With many species in these regions of Costa Rica having very limited altitudinal ranges, a 600 metre shift in elevation would put them in an ecosystem that they had not previously inhabited. These changes would consequently force other species to move out of their natural habitats.

Tropical regions may not be the first concern when one thinks about the effects of climate change, however, studies have shown a rise of approximately 0.75 degrees Celsius in the tropics since 1975. Climate change models are also predicting a further rise of 3 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years in Central and South America (University of Connecticut, 2008). “According to Karmalkar, as temperatures rise, various ecosystems will try to migrate to where they are comfortable, moving in an upslope direction in this case. As they migrate, plants and animals will disturb other species, and eventually run out of space as they reach the top of the mountains. The result may be a loss of many species that can’t survive the new conditions.” (University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2008). Preliminary studies have shown that the cloud bank around Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is rising due to climate change (Pounds, Fodgen and Campbell, 1999).

Costa Rica - Endemic species rely of the cloud forests for survival (Flickr Erik B | Creative Commons|

Some researchers have gone as far as to say that “endemic species may provide early warning signals for climate change as an extinction driver because they will be the first to move outside their modeled climatic envelope” (Schwartz et al., 2006). Climate change caused changes to bird and lizard populations in Monteverde in the past which rebounded to cause extinction of other species (Pounds, Fogden and Campbell, 1999), making understanding and mitigating climate change all the more important for sensitive ecosystems such as the cloud forests of Costa Rica.

Other interesting resources:

La Selva Biological Station: La Selva Holds Two Workshops Addressing Climate Change

Área de Conservación Guanacaste (iACG): Climate Change and Biodiversity Workshop




Summer Blog Series – Kirstin Silvera Blogs from Costa Rica – Climate Change and our Coral Reefs

As part of our summer-long blog series, Kirstin Silvera, a member of the CC-RAI team will be discussing climate change and its impact on coral reefs, biodiversity and more from a research placement in Costa Rica. Kirstin is currently a graduate student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and will begin her Law degree this coming fall. In the first of the series, Kirstin outlines the impact of climate change on coral reefs around the world.

A healthy coral reef - vibrant and full of life (Nature Summit, 2011)

While some marine organisms can afford to change habitats in response to changing climates, coral reefs do not have that option. Therefore it is important to understand the effects that climate change can have on our ocean’s coral reefs and species.

Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse habitats on earth, and the most biodiverse of all marine ecosystems, containing approximately 25 percent of all fish species (IPCC, 2007). However, as the oceans warm while the earth’s temperature increases, corals are at a higher risk of mortality.

Corals are harmed with climate change because of ocean temperature increases and because of increased ocean acidification (U.S. EPA, 2011). Coral reefs are sensitive to changes as small as a one degree Celsius rise in ocean temperature, and if sustained for a period as small as six weeks extensive coral bleaching can occur (Australian Government, n.d.). In these situations if temperatures do not return to normal, widespread coral mortality can result (Australian Government, n.d.).

As temperatures in the oceans rise, algae, which have a symbiotic relationship with corals, are lost (Nicholls et al., 2007). This causes the corals to stress and bleach, and as previously mentioned if increased temperatures are sustained, coral mortality will occur. In addition, ocean acidification increases as a result of increased carbon dioxide emissions (U.S. EPA, 2011b). As ocean acidification increases, the availability of calcium carbonate declines, which results in a decrease in calcification for corals (Fischlin et al., 2007). It is important to note that climate change is not the direct contributor to ocean acidification, but rather is a result of increased CO2 which also causes climate change (U.S. EPA, 2011b).

The world’s corals provide refuge and habitat for many marine species (Fischlin et al., 2007). For the world’s biggest reef, the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Government (n.d.) has identified climate change as the reef’s greatest long-term threat. On top of losing precious biodiversity, an Oxford Economics report estimates the economic losses that could be suffered to Australia’s economy would be around $37.7 billion (ABC News, 2009).

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest reef, has been suffering as a result of climate change as well. Currently, the reef, which is not only biologically but economically vital for the region, is suffering from coral bleaching as a result of warming ocean temperatures. The loss of the reefs which provide habitat for a variety of species has resulted in losses for fisheries, which depend on species that need the reef for their survival.

A coral reef devastated by bleaching (Climate Shift, 2009)

When bleaching occurs the coral loses its colour and its ability to function. While some corals may return to their natural state after bleaching if environmental conditions return to normal, fecundity and growth rates may still be negatively impacted (Nicholls et al., 2007). Below is an example of what coral bleaching looks like.

When thinking about the state of the world’s coral reefs, it is important to remember that “coral reefs are among the most vulnerable of all ecosystems to climate change” (Australian Government, n.d.). Overall, the state of the largest coral reefs in the world depends on mitigating stressors from multiple sources which threaten their survival. However, if we are to address any of these factors, climate change should be very high on the priority list.

If you are interested in any the references listed above or would like additional information check out the reference guide Kirstin prepared. Also take a look at Kirstin’s other blogs from Costa Rica.


Adapting to Climate Risk in Coastal Communities: A Review of Three Canadian Communities – Iqaluit, Nunavut

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.

Iqaluit, Nunavut (Photo: Dcysiv Moment -Flickr)

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.

Iqaluit, one of Canada's fastest growing communities (Photo: Agent Magenta - Flickr)

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 –

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.


SSHRC Case Studies: Town of Richmond Hill Pioneer Park Stormwater Management Rehabilitation Project

SSHRC Case Studies: Town of Richmond Hill Pioneer Park Stormwater Management Rehabilitation Project

As part of the Public Outreach Grant SSHRC interns had the opportunity to work with policy partners on profiling some of their current projects. CC-RAI will be highlighting that work as part of series of climate change related case studies. The case studies were developed by all of the SSHRC interns in partnership with Knowledge Mobilization and their respective hosts, including the City of Toronto’s Environment Office, Region of Peel, York Region, Durham Region, ACER and the TRCA.

This week’s case study examines the Town of Richmond Hill and its efforts to improve flood control and erosion protection at the watershed level – keeping in mind the increasing importance of building climate change adaptation into ongoing muncipal planning and management strategies. The complete case study is now available.

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

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.

Halifax, Nova Scotia (CC - Hobolens)

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 –

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.

Re-Setting the Table – A Perspective on Ontario’s Food System and Climate Change: Towards Integrated Sustainable Food Systems

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

Ontario is home to Canada’s best climatic zones for agricultural production. The combination of temperate climate and rich soils allows Ontario to produce the greatest variety of agricultural products, with the highest economic value, of any region in Canada. However the future of farming in Ontario is uncertain due to competing land use pressures, increasing climate variation and extreme weather events (and, associated damage costs) related to climate change.

Expected Climate Impacts on Agriculture in Ontario

Managing through uncertainty (of all kinds) is a common element of farming life.  Weather has always been a challenge and there are numerous valuable adaptive approaches already employed by farmers.  However, global and regional climate change scenarios point to a scope and scale of change that exceeds anything previous precedence.  Between 2010 and 2039, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects average warming of 1-3°C across much of North America and, beyond this period, annual warming is expected to increase. The resulting environmental changes will test the capacity of individual farmers to respond, and will likely push beyond the threshold of “normal” agricultural adaptation.

Today, the most immediate threat to agriculture is the loss of farmland and the economic viability of medium-small farm businesses. The Ontario Farmland Trust (‘the Trust’) is at the forefront of the farming crisis. The Trust works to protect and preserve farmland, enhance the viability of farming and to safeguard our food security, not just here in Ontario, but across Canada. At the recent Farmland Preservation Forum hosted by the Trust, I had a chance to hear a panel of agricultural experts discuss the key challenges that are threatening food and farming in Ontario. One of the first presentations helped to elucidate the urgency of the situation and the importance of farmland preservation to food-self-sufficiency, which is the ability to a specified area to provide for its own need. The study revealed that Ontario is currently a net exporter of food, but by 2036 it will have a food deficit. This means that if the projected population increase of 34.4% or 4.5 million people by 2036 is realized the province of Ontario will no longer be able to meet the nutritional requirements of its residents within the existing agriculture and land use model (McCallum, 2011).

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

This sobering revelation is compounded by the ongoing struggle to manage growth while preserving and protecting farmland and water resources.  Conversely, I also learned about the untapped potential in Ontario, specifically in the Golden Horseshoe.  Golden Horse is a geographically distinct sub-region in southern Ontario that is one of the largest food and farming clusters in North America, consisting of one million acres of farmland producing over 200 agricultural crops. This agricultural-rich area is home to 6.5 million people and is considered to have the fastest growing populations in Canada, which has created significant challenges for farming and local communities. In response to these pressures, a collaboration of five regional governments and other stakeholders have recently developed the Golden Horseshoe Agriculture & Agri-food Strategy  and Food & Farming Action Plan. The action plan identifies several goals to building partnerships, to foster innovation and to link food, farming and health. While the plan promotes economic development and the importance of educating people to make healthy food choices, it doesn’t go as far as to join-up production with the nutritional requirements of consumers. In my opinion this is actually where the greatest untapped potential lays – sustainable, health promoting food systems.

This view requires a shift in thinking from a supply-focus to a consumer-focus food system. It requires a convergence of agriculture and health policy to release the economic potential of medium-small scale producers and processors, while re-connecting people to their food and the land, and providing the foundation for a integrate strategy to adapt to climate change. One concept that embodies this approach is regional optimal consumption planning. This concept links regional requirements to optimise nourishment and organises production, processing, and distribution to match those needs, and in this way, respects socio-cultural and ecosystem-based factors (Desjardins et al p.439, 2010). This approach may seem ‘radical’ to some, but we already know that diet-related health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease are on the rise and if we continue to flounder in terms of growth management. – Ontario will be food insecure by 2036, forcing us to become more dependent on the volatile global food market unless we act now.

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

In summary, even though the implications of climate change are still being realized, adaptation strategies can work by supporting a vision for a sustainable, health promoting food system. Joined-up agriculture and health policy is needed to unlock the full potential of local medium-small scale producers and processors through integrated approaches, such as optimising regional consumption planning. Events such as the Farmland Preservation Forum are important to facilitate lively discussion and debate about food and farming related issues among local and provincial governments, farmers and neighbours. The Forum was able to highlight the many challenges facing farmland protection and preservation, while focusing our attention on the vulnerabilities in our food system and the uncertainty of our future food self-sufficiency.  However, Ontario has a rich agricultural heritage and farmers continue to manage through uncertainty. The Golden Horseshoe Action Plan maybe part of this needed response, but it will also take political will, leadership and public involvement to mobilise action to achieve food self-sufficiency, community resiliency and adaptability in relation to the impacts of climate change. We all have a role to play in creating a sustainable, healthy food future.


Jamai Schile, CC-RAI Graduate Assistant and Masters Candidate explores the connection between health, planning and climate adaptation

Jamai Schile is a graduate student within the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Planning Program where she is pursuing a degree in regional planning. With over 10 years experience in environmental management and agriculture, she is currently exploring planning concepts in rural/ regional sustainable food systems.

Desjardins E, MacRae R, Schumilas T. Meeting future population food needs with local production in Waterloo region: linking food availability and optimal nutritional requirements. Agric Human Values. 2010; 27(2): 129 – 140

McCallum, Charlotte. (2011) Farmland Requirements for Ontario’s Growing Population to 2036.

The report was completed in 2011, and will soon be available on the OFLT website:

Other sources of information on Agriculture and Climate Change:

People’s Food Policy Project

BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA

David Suzuki Foundation _ Food & Climate Change…What Can You Do?

Adapting to Climate Risk in Coastal Communities: A Review of Three Canadian Communities – Saanich, BC

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 Saanich, British Columbia.

Saanich, B.C. - Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Saanich, British Columbia:

In October, 2011, Saanich released its Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan. A broad range of people, including Saanich’s internal climate adaptation team, line staff, key stakeholders and the general public, played important roles in developing the plan. A member of the Planning Department and external consultants led the project, while the Management Group, comprised of directors and key managers from municipal departments, supervised and the plan’s development and provided support to the project leaders. One member of the Management Group, Saanich’s Chief Administrative Officer, truly believed in the importance of adaptation and championed the project from the beginning. To identify, validate and prioritize key impacts and adaptation actions, the project leaders consulted with line staff, influential stakeholders from the affected sectors, the general public, Saanich’s seven Advisory Committees, and senior personnel in the other twelve municipalities within the Capital Regional District, as one plan will eventually need to be developed for the entire region.

In order to facilitate the adaptation planning process and the development of its Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan, the municipality and its consultants created a customized framework that was modified from the ICLEI and Climate Impact Group’s guidebook, “Preparing for Climate Change”. The framework consisted of seven steps: 1) define at risk sectors; 2) assess impacts; 3) evaluate risks; 4) identify adaptive capacity; 5) conduct an urgency assessment; 6) validate urgency; and 7) rank actions.

The Adaptation Plan identifies eight-seven actions to address a wide variety of impacts in ten sectors, including agriculture, ecosystems, infrastructure, transportation, health, and emergency response. For instance, to increase local food production, the municipality intends to modify certain policies and bylaws to enable urban farming and support more community gardens. To deal with building and infrastructure threats, Saanich will consider climate change in the codes of its own buildings and engineering plans, retrofit critical infrastructure and incorporate stormwater management in new and retrofitted roads. Furthermore, the city plans to institute an erosion setback in high hazard areas, create variances and density bonuses to protect public amenities that buffer against coastal threats, and advise developers on mainstreaming adaptation into coastal properties. These actions will be incorporated into departmental plans and gradually implemented over the next ten years. Every three years, Saanich will formally review and update the plan considering actual impacts and instituted measures, although it will also track its progress on an annual basis.

Saanich, British Columbia

The newly released plan builds on adaptation initiatives already underway. The Urban Forest Strategy, Invasive Species Management Strategy and Natural State Covenant increase the tree canopy to provide shade during high temperatures, eradicate and limit the spread of non-native species, and protect natural ecosystems in their current state. To minimize flood risks to buildings, the municipality limits development in high flood prone zones and the construction of buildings below the floodplain. The municipality has also allocated funds to upgrade aging infrastructure, such as stormwater and water distribution systems, which is beginning to occur. Finally, the Emergency Response and Recovery Plan and several hazard specific action plans provide a foundation for responding to climate related hazards like flooding.

Sources: Personal interviews from municipal staff; Saanich’s Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan; and Adapting to Climate Change in Saanich: A Discussion Paper by D. Hegg. For further information on this community’s adaptation efforts, please visit the following website.

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.

MAINSTREAM: The National Water Adaptation to Climate Change Forum, March 22 -23rd, 2012


CC-RAI is pleased to highlight a national forum convened by our partners to mobilize knowledge generated from the work of the Regional Adaptation Collaboratives (RACs) in the area of change change and water resources. Project partners include:  Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Research (CFCAS), the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) with funded provided by Natural Resources Canada.

It is already recognized that climate change is affecting water resources across Canada, with each region and community facing unique opportunities and challenges. Together, we can share knowledge to advance the state of practice for adaptation nationally. The purpose of this event is to share lessons and opportunities, and identify needs and potential challenges in advancing the adaptation of water resource management nationally. Participants will contribute directly to a national compendium for practitioners, assist in developing a briefing document, and exchange best practices and lessons.


  • Provide learning opportunities for new ways of thinking about water adaptation.
  • Reflect upon the current state of practice and share knowledge on water adaptation projects.
  • Showcase a diverse range of projects led by Forum participants.
  • Stimulate discussion to identify: Water adaptation knowledge needs of practitioners (e.g., engineers, scientists, policy analysts, project coordinators, planners, and educators);
  • Opportunities for dissemination of knowledge and collaboration towards the mainstreaming of adaptation.
  • Contribute to: A national compendium of knowledge on water resource adaptation to be used by practitioners; A briefing document on the state of and opportunities for advancing, water adaptation across Canada.
This interactive knowledge exchange will bring together researchers and practitioners alike to advance the state of knowledge around climate change and water. This is a by invitation event – if you are interested in attending or would like additional details please contact  Harris Switzman (
or call 416.661.6600 x. 5931.
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