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:
- Starting as early as possible basing it on scientific evidence.
- Engaging and applying solutions across disciplines, sectors (energy, waste management, water treatment, infrastructure, health, and consumption) and all levels of governance.
- Providing clear short, medium, and long-term goals and establishing the commitment for these goals in [a] municipality’s asset management policy.
- 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)