Rising sea levels, increased annual precipitation and summer heat waves are all changes in climate that have been projected for the City of Vancouver over the next century. Both the welcome changes (such as warmer, longer summers ) and those that are less appealing (such as rainier winters and less snow in the mountains) have serious consequences for the City of Vancouver and its inhabitants. To maintain the City’s character, liveability and resilience over the longer term, climate change will have to be incorporated into planning and decision making processes.
How can this be accomplished? Plenty of cities around the world are now engaging in adaptation through the design of climate change adaptation strategies that identify potential impacts and evaluate adaptation options. The City of Vancouver has recently embarked on its own adaptation journey, guided by its participation in the Adaptation Initiative coordinated by the NGO ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. Alongside other cities including Victoria, North Vancouver and Surrey, Vancouver is completing the five milestone process set out by ICLEI and is scheduled to have a draft Adaptation Strategy by the end of 2011.
Vancouver will face a diversity of challenges, from the durability of infrastructure to the health and safety of vulnerable populations. Rising sea levels mean that sea walls, dykes or simply making room for flooding are all potential adaptations for low-lying areas. Hotter summers mean that at-risk populations such as the homeless and elderly may require extra assistance accessing water or finding cool places to rest. Anticipated climate changes will tend to exacerbate existing climate variability rather than introducing new phenomena. As such, many City programs such as water conservation efforts, tree planting initiatives and flood risk management strategies are already building resilience to climate change.
Coordinating these and other adaptation actions and ensuring that a changed climate is taken into consideration within each of the City’s broader goals and aspirations remains an important challenge for the Climate Change Adaptation Team. With the help and participation of all City departments, Vancouver can become a leader in climate change adaptation, just as it is forging a similar path in climate change mitigation.