Climate Change Risk Management Strategy for Halifax Regional Municipality

Background:

According to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other leading climate change researchers, climate change is impacting and will continue to affect the health and well being of people and communities throughout the world even if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to the Kyoto Protocol target levels. If left unmitigated, these climate changes are likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.

Globally, estimates of the annual cost of climate change impacts range from $300 billion to over $2,000 billion. While there is no consensus that either Hurricane Juan that affected Nova Scotia, or Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities were caused by climate change, the devastating physical, health, and social impacts may foretell the type of impacts on vulnerable coastal communities that are likely to become more frequent in the future as a consequence of global climate change. Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has been witness to the physical and social impacts of extreme weather, notably Hurricane Juan in September 2003, and the one-metre snowfall and high winds experienced during the ‘Great Maritime Blizzard’ of February 2004. These extreme events significantly impacted the region, and severely impacted the region’s electrical and communications infrastructure as well as impeding public access to health and emergency service facilities throughout the Province of Nova Scotia but most particularly here in the HRM.

In response to HRM’s experience with extreme events and the projections that indicate these events are expected to be become more frequent, the Sustainable Environment Management Office (SEMO) in collaboration with members of ClimAdapt (a network of private sectorcompanies in Nova Scotia that provide climate change adaptation expertise) partnered with, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia to develop an approach that could be implemented to reduce HRM’s contribution to greenhouse gases and manage the impacts of climate change. The result of thisinitiative was Climate SMART (Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit) with the overall objective of mainstreaming climate change into municipal decision making.

City of Sydney Environmental Management Plan 2007

The City of Sydney Environmental Management Plan establishes the City’s environmental vision, goals, targets and actions for the next ten years and beyond. It addresses the themes of energy and emissions, water, waste, plants and animals. Prioritised actions have been developed to improve the health and function of our environment, and reduce environmental impacts of Council and our community. Actions will be delivered through demonstration, advocacy and partnerships to position the City as a leading environmental city. The key stakeholders are residents, community groups, businesses, government agencies and environmental organisations. Environmental objectives of the City’s Strategic Plan 2006-2009 and Corporate Plan 2007-2010 are included within this plan. It is also designed to set a framework forenvironmental outcomes of the Sydney 2030 vision1. The plan has been developed with assistance from the Institute for Sustainable Futures. Workshops and consultation were held with environmental organisations, community groups, Councillors and staff. Targets and actions comply with relevant legislation, and leading programs, reports and policies. The City will coordinate overall implementation of the plan, and outcomes will be reported in the annual State of Environment Report.

Climate Change Action Plan

On February 2, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano signed Executive Order 2005-02 establishing the Climate Change Advisory Group (CCAG). Appointed by the Governor, the 35-member CCAG comprised a diverse group of stakeholders who brought broad perspective and expertise to the topic of climate change in Arizona. The Governor’s Executive Order directed the CCAG, under the coordination of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), to: 1) prepare an inventory and forecast of Arizona greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and 2) develop a Climate Change Action Plan with recommendations for reducing GHG emissions in Arizona. The Executive Order emphasized that “Arizona and other Western States have particular concerns about the impacts of climate change and climate variability on the environment, including the potential for prolonged drought, severe forest fires, warmer temperatures, increased snowmelt, reduced snow pack and other effects.” The Executive Order also recognized that “actions to reduce GHG emissions, including increasing energy efficiency, conserving natural resources and developing renewable energy sources, may have multiple benefits including economic development, job creation, cost savings, and improved air quality.”

Climate Proofing: A Risk-based Approach to Adaptation

[Executive Summary] The Pacific islands region faces increasing environmental and socioeconomic pressures exacerbated by global climate change and climate variability. Adaptation to climate change and variability (CCV) is ultimately an issue of sustainable development. Even without climate change, Pacific island countries are already severely affected by climate variability and extremes, and they remain extremely vulnerable to future changes in the regional climate that could increase the risks. Countries in the Pacific have clearly recognized the need to (i) reduce their vulnerability to these increasing risks through adaptation, and (ii) strengthen their human and institutional capacities to assess, plan, and respond to these challenges. Six case studies designed to assist countries to adapt to current and future climate risks have been prepared. The case studies were prepared through a regional technical assistance under the Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Climate Change (REACH) programme of the Asian Development Bank, and funded by the Canadian Cooperation Fund for Climate Change – Greenhouse Gas Abatement, Carbon Sequestration and Adaptation. The technical assistance was administered by the Asian Development Bank as the executing agency, and implemented in partnership with the Governments of the Federated States of Micronesia and of the Cook Islands (implementing agencies), Maunsell (NZ) Ltd (environmental and engineering consultancy) and the International Global Change Institute, University of Waikato, New Zealand. The ultimate aim of the case studies is to show why and demonstrate how reducing climate-related risks is an integral part of sustainable development. The overall goal of a risk-based approach to climate change adaptation is to manage both the current and future risks associated with the full spectrum of atmospheric and oceanic hazards. Through a consultative process the following case studies were selected: (i) the Federated States of Micronesia - “climate proofing” a coastal community in Pohnpei; a roading infrastructure project in Kosrae; and the infrastructure, human health and environment components of the National Strategic Development Plan; (ii) the Cook Islands - “climate proofing” the design of the breakwater for the newly developed Western Basin, Rarotonga; a community inland from Avatiu Harbour; and the National SustainableDevelopment Strategy. As part of the case studies, assessments were made of both the risks arising from current climate variability and extremes and from the future, incremental changes in those risks as a result of longer-term changes in climate extremes and variability. While the field studies and other activities to develop the six case studies were undertaken in Pacific Island Countries, the innovative methodologies and tools, as well as the findings, are applicable to all Small Island Developing States, and even to larger developing and developed countries.

Coping with Global Climate Change: The Role of Adaptation in the United States

From the Executive Summary:

Climate change resulting from increased greenhouse gas concentrations has the potential to harm societies and ecosystems. In particular, agriculture, forestry, water resources, human health, coastal settlements, and natural ecosystems will need to adapt to a changing climate or face diminished functions. Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and their concentration in the atmosphere will tend to reduce the degree and likelihood that significantly adverse conditions will result. Consideration of actions—e.g., mitigation policy—that can reduce this likelihood is reasonable and prudent, and has generally been the primary focus of public attention and policy efforts on climate change. However, recognition is increasing that the combination of continued increases in emissions and the inertia of the climate system means that some degree of climate change is inevitable. Even if extreme measures could be instantly taken to curtail global emissions, the momentum of the earth’s climate is such that warming cannot be completely avoided. Although essential for limiting the extent, and indeed the probability, of rapid and severe climate change, mitigation is not, and this paper argues, should not be, the only protective action in society’s arsenal of responses.

Adaptation actions and strategies present a complementary approach to mitigation. While mitigation can be viewed as reducing the likelihood of adverse conditions, adaptation can be viewed as reducing the severity of many impacts if adverse conditions prevail. That is, adaptation reduces the level of damages that might have otherwise occurred. However, adaptation is a risk-management strategy that is not free of cost nor foolproof, and the worthiness of any specific actions must therefore carefully weigh the expected value of the avoided damages against the real costs of implementing the adaptation strategy.