Over the past ten years and more, Canadian cities have been implementing policies and practices to address climate change adaptation through urban planning. Building climate adaptation policies into urban planning facilitates how cities address the intensity and adversity of extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, floods, storms).

Climate change priorities can vary from city to city, such that “increased variability and the difficulty in predicting what is coming is one of the biggest challenges” in planning for climate change. For cities to be able to adapt to increased volatility and uncertainty in the weather, city plans need to be flexible, incorporating information as new research data and technologies emerge. Nature-based climate solutions can also be integrated into city plans, including “[w]ater features or green features, trees, grass” that also act as carbon sinks.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has advocated for including climate change data into community planning. The FCM developed the “Guide for Integrating Climate Change Considerations into Municipal Asset Management” as part of the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (2017-2022). The guide draws from drawing from the insights and approaches of eleven municipalities participating in the FCM’s Climate and Asset Management Network (CAMN) and the former Leaders in Asset Management Program (LAMP). The guide highlights community planning as a key tool for climate adaptation and shows how climate data is crucial to understanding both the types of changes to emerge and the ways that cities can adapt to climate change impacts. Regulatory tools such as zoning bylaws and larger-scale infrastructure plans would both require considerations “to incorporate climate risk, vulnerability and adaptation actions.”

Chapter 2, (p.11) of the guide presents four approaches to integrating considerations about climate change into municipal decision making:

  1. Starting as early as possible basing it on scientific evidence.
  2. Engaging and applying solutions across disciplines, sectors (energy, waste management, water treatment, infrastructure, health, and consumption) and all levels of governance.
  3. Providing clear short, medium, and long-term goals and establishing the commitment for these goals in [a] municipality’s asset management policy.
  4. Identifying implementation opportunities, create budgets, provide clear roles and responsibilities of key personnel, and create concrete measures for the assessing process.

Indigenous Peoples live in cities, and cities are located on Indigenous lands. It is crucial to consider the means for integrating climate change in municipal policy, urban planning, and design, rooted in Indigenous knowledges and experiences. For example, the Black + Indigenous Design Collective in British Columbia aims to increase opportunities for Black and Indigenous urbanists and designers to contribute and shape urban policy-making processes, when historically, Black and Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from urban planning processes. If cities are to be indigenized through climate change policy, it will be necessary to go beyond established principles for integrating considerations about climate change into municipal decision making, and better engage with the work of Indigenous designers, planners, and innovators and their contributions to the liveability and sustainability of cities.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Marcin Skalij, Unsplash)

Natural climate solutions are climate change initiatives that “draw on the power of nature to reduce emissions, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and store it in natural systems.” According to a report by Nature United, “natural climate solutions could reduce Canada’s greenhouse gases by as much as 78 million tonnes a year in 2030.”

In 2020 the Government of Canada developed a funding program for Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions (INCS) with the intention to support Indigenous communities “to undertake on-the-ground activities for ecological restoration, improved land management, and conservation” to facilitate resilience to climate change and “human well-being.” The Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions map shows initiatives across Canada that have received funding in the first two years of the program. Natural climate solutions work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, desired outcomes of those initiatives funded by the program can also include:

  • increased community resilience and adaptation to climate change,
  • improvements in food security,
  • support for species at risk and/or species of cultural importance,
  • increased capacity and economic opportunities, and
  • the intergenerational transfer of knowledge.

As part of the INCS, the Government of Canada has committed to invest three billion dollars to support planting two billion trees, develop urban forest plans, and initiate measures that will facilitate carbon sequestration, “the practice of capturing and storing carbon dioxide.” Investments into Indigenous-led conservation and natural climate solutions in Canada are expected to create new jobs and revenue streams for Indigenous communities and expand protected areas by 30 percent by 2030.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Dave, Unsplash [Z9d7CYpBDqo]).