Halifax Climate SMART: The Climate Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit

Jessica Hitt
Posted on: 3/15/2010 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

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Jessica Hitt

Project Summary

In response to growing concern about climate change and weather events from 2003 - 2005, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), in conjunction with ClimAdapt, developed Climate SMART (Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit) to achieve two goals: 1) to develop a plan to reduce HRM's greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) to create a management plan to prepare the municipality for projected climate change impacts. The Climate SMART group is a broad collection of partners including HRM, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Government of Canada, and private companies. The overall objective of Climate SMART is to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies into overall municipal decision-making.


In September 2003, Halifax experienced Hurricane Juan followed by the blizzard named “White Juan” in early 2004. These extreme weather events caused extensive damage to communities and the local economy putting a huge strain on the HRM, which resulted in massive amounts of unbudgeted spending. These extreme weather events triggered concern in the community about climate change and future projected impacts. During this time a local consortium of environmental consulting companies, ClimAdapt, approached HRM with a proposal to work together to create a ‘toolkit’ to prepare the region for the realities of climate change and reduce the municipalities' footprint. The Halifax Climate SMART project was intended to serve as the prototype for future projects. The project was initially funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program in Natural Resources Canada.


The group of partners working on the Climate SMART project developed a number of studies and deliverables to be used in a toolkit to help guide the municipality to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation into overall municipal decision making.

The Climate SMART Toolkit includes:

  1. Risk Management Tool: An asset/activity risk management assessment tool to help assess the vulnerability of HRM physical and environmental assets/activities to climate impacts, under potential climate change scenarios.
  2. Community-Based Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management Tool: Techniques to identify, quantify, and evaluate anticipated climate vulnerability for the HRM Municipality itself, and the broader HRM community.
  3. Cost/Benefit Assessment Tool: A cost/benefit analysis guide to assist municipal decision-makers to identify and quantify the economic costs and benefits of proposed climate adaptation planning and management measures within HRM’s existing budget, compared with the costs/benefits of a “business as usual” approach.
  4. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Tool: A practical climate adaptation tool and methodology for HRM practitioners to assess the impacts of the environment (i.e., climate change) on the project, in addition to the traditional EIA Guide that assesses the impact of the project on the environment.
  5. Communications & Outreach Tool: A customized toolkit, comprised of several communications and outreach approaches, which targets vulnerable residents and businesses informing and mobilizing them to support HRM-led risk reduction (adaptation) activities and programs (http://www.halifax.ca/climate/solution1.html).

The original objectives of the Climate SMART initiative have been continued by various groups in an ad hoc fashion. HRM has seen great progress on the inclusion of greenhouse gas reducing policies and projects into the municipality’s decision making. While the integration and work on adaptation has been a bit slower to come to fruition, the region has seen a lot of action in response to the impact of sea level rise and storm surge on Halifax Harbor. For example, in 2006, HRM adopted the Halifax Regional Municipal Planning Strategy, which includes explicit policies to address climate change and illustrates a dangerous information gap related to sea level rise and storm surge effects on Halifax Harbor and the rest of the coast. HRM, local universities, and federal and provincial government partners have been working collectively to gather the necessary scientific data to plan effective adaptation measures. In the spring of 2007, the group created a digital elevation model (DEM) using LiDAR mapping as a basis for flood hazard mapping around Halifax Harbor. They have identified and mapped future sea level rise and flood zone risks. All of this work will feed into a vulnerability assessment and recommended adaptation actions to be incorporated in the Halifax Harbor Plan. The HRM’s Climate SMART efforts are ongoing and as more information and tools become available, HRM works to incorporate them.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The integration of Climate SMART mitigation and adaptation initiatives into all levels of HRM’s decision making is an ongoing effort. The overall objectives are to:

  • Reduce HRM’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increase HRM’s resilience to climate change through a vulnerability assessment and incorporated adaptation measures
  • Incorporate extreme weather event and disaster preparedness in HRM

HRM plans to continue to assess the regional vulnerability to climate change impacts and work to increase their resilience through integrating Climate SMART initiative into HRM's decision-making.


Hitt, J. (2010). Halifax Climate SMART: The Climate Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit. [Case study on a project of Halifax Regional Municipality]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/halifax-climate-smart-climate-sustain… (Last updated March 2010)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

HRM established the SEMO office to serve as the corporate lead for sustainability and environmental policy, strategy, reporting, and performance monitoring. Since its establishment in fall 2004, SEMO and HRM have taken an integrated systems approach to the environment, focusing on clean land, energy, air & water. The SEMO office also coordinates internal and external education and awareness programs. Examples of activities falling under the land, energy, air & water areas are given below.

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