Canadian Communities' Guidebook for Adaptation to Climate Change

Many local governments have already begun working on decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recently, a growing number have begun examining ways to adapt to climate change – the act of reducing climate change impacts that are already underway. This Guidebook is intended to help those who are looking for ways to reduce the impacts of climate change (increasing heat waves, water shortages, intense storms and sea-level rise) while decreasing GHG emissions and ensuring sustainable development for their communities. Several different methods can be used to adapt to climate change. Some of these methods contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while increasing long-term sustainability. Expanding the tree canopy in urban centres, for example, helps to reduce the impact of an increasing number of hot days and heat waves. It also reduces the need for air conditioning, and so reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled electricity generation. Healthy trees also decrease the impact of intense rainfall, stormwater runoff and pollution – increasing sustainability for our communities.

Climate change impacts will affect societies in complex and broad-ranging ways as technological, economic, social and ecological changes take place across regions, groups and sectors. Ecological impacts have cascading effects on social and health outcomes. Infrastructure problems have profound economic effects, such as the estimated $10 billion US price tag resulting from North America’s 2003 power outage. Cities, regions and countries are linked through the global political economic system so that impacts in one area of the world may affect other areas through economic forces, such as prices for agricultural products, or pressures including international migration.

In North America, vulnerability to climate change will depend on the effectiveness and timing of adaptation, as well as the distribution of coping capacity. While Canada has considerable  adaptive capacity when compared to many less developed nations, vulnerability and adaptive capacity are not uniform across our society. Socially and economically disadvantaged populations are likely to have less adaptive capacity than the population as a whole, and climate “surprises” may bring weaknesses in adaptive capacity to light that were not previously recognized (e.g., the 1988 Ice Storm, Hurricane Katrina or the 1995 Chicago heat wave). Community attributes, including social networks, social cohesion, volunteerism, economic and income diversification, contribute to adaptive capacity and resilience. Societal impacts will therefore depend on factors such as wealth, infrastructure quality, emergency preparedness, healthcare, community vitality, economic and governance system structure, and population growth.

Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable development (SAM) are often developed separately at the local government and community level. Recognition of the need to integrate climate risks into development priorities and decision making is the principal driving force behind the development of the SAM project. A number of methods are possible for the integration of adaptation and mitigation in the context of sustainable development. This Guidebook provides one such method.

Managing Seagrasses for Resilience to Climate Change

Seagrasses are flowering plants that thrive in shallow oceanic and estuarine waters around the world. Although there are only about 60 species of seagrasses worldwide, these plants play an important role in many shallow, near-shore, marine ecosystems. There is growing evidence that seagrasses are declining globally because of anthropogenic impacts. This paper presents an overview of seagrasses, the impacts of climate change, and other threats to seagrass habitats. Finally, it proposes tools and strategies for managers to help support seagrass resilience.

Creating a More Resilient Yellowknife: Climate Change Impacts & Municipal Decision Making

Canada’s municipalities are increasingly facing the realities of climate change impacts, none more so than northern communities. Early understanding of local climate change impacts and a pro-active approach to reducing the community’s vulnerabilities to them is essential to build a more resilient community.

The municipal decision making process has many components: staff reports; the work of standing committees and ad-hoc task forces; recommendations from external agencies; issues brought directly to the municipalities attention by committee members, community or Councilors; and ultimately Council decisions that set the course for the future of the community and its residents. Many of these decisions have a durable impact many years into the future. This future has significant uncertainties with regard to climate change impacts and how they might affect the longer-term outcome of those council decisions. Understanding these climate change scenarios, their degree of uncertainty and how they might affect major capital investment decisions is essential to ensuring efficient use of tax dollars.

The intent of this project is to set Yellowknife on a path to prudent risk management of climate change vulnerabilities. It will result in improvements to decision-making that gives appropriate significance to climate change impacts, and enables the municipality to adequately consider community safety, security and livability in every decision. The overall objective is to develop the tools, capacity, and decision-making processes necessary for the City of Yellowknife to systematically address any community climate change impact as it emerges.

Early Lessons from Implementation of Climate Change Adaptation Projects in South-eastern Africa

In April 2007, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and SouthSouthNorth co-hosted the workshop "Early Lessons from the Implementation of Climate Change Adaptation Projects in Eastern and Southern Africa." The two-day workshop brought together over 50 representatives of non-governmental organizations, government departments and donor agencies to discuss and share experiences related to ongoing and planned adaptation projects in the region. The workshop report captures observations shared, concerns identified and insight gained into new approaches to climate change adaptation.

AD-DICE: An Implementation of Adaptation in the DICE Model

Integrated Assessment Models (IAMS) have helped us over the past decade to understand the interactions between the environment and the economy in the context of climate change. Although it has also long been recognized that adaptation is a powerful and necessary tool to combat the adverse effects of climate change, most IAMs have not explicitly included the option of adaptation in combating climate change. This paper adds to the IAM and climate change literature by explicitly including adaptation in an IAM, thereby making the trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation visible. Specifically, a theoretical framework is created and used to implement adaptation as a decision variable into the DICE model. We use our new AD-DICE model to derive the adaptation cost functions implicit in the DICE model. In our set-up, adaptation and mitigation decisions are separable and AD-DICE can mimic DICE when adaptation is optimal. We find that our specification of the adaptation costs is robust with respect to the mitigation policy scenarios. Our numerical results show that adaptation is a powerful option to combat climate change, as it reduces most of the potential costs of climate change in earlier periods, while mitigation does so in later periods.

Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Polar Regions)

In both polar regions, there is strong evidence of the ongoing impacts of climate change on terrestrial and freshwater species, communities and ecosystems (very high confidence). Recent studies project that such changes will continue (high confidence), with implications for biological resources and globally important feedbacks to climate (medium confidence). Strong evidence exists of changes in species’ ranges and abundances and in the position of some tree lines in the Arctic (high confidence). An increase in greenness and biological productivity has occurred in parts of theArctic (high confidence). Surface albedo is projected to decrease and the exchange of greenhouse gases between polar landscapes and the atmosphere will change (very high confidence). Although recent models predict that a small net accumulation of carbon will occur in Arctic tundra during the present century (low confidence), higher methane emissions responding to the thawing of permafrost and an overall increase in wetlands will enhance radiative forcing (medium confidence).

Drought-Management Considerations for Climate Change Adaptation: Focus on the Mekong Region

During recent years, drought has become a common occurrence in most areas in the Mekong River Delta of the Mekong region, including nine provinces in the Southern Central and Central Highland regions in Viet Nam. The Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), has estimated that between 1 and 1.3 million people (13–17 per cent of the total population) are affected by drought in these provinces and hence are in need of assistance. Ninh Thuan province is the worst affected of these provinces.This project is part of a collaboration between the International Environment and Disaster Management (IEDM) laboratory of the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan, the People’s Committee of Ninh Thuan, Viet Nam, and Oxfam in Viet Nam. The current research focuses on the impacts of recurring droughts on the livelihoods of the rural communities in the drought-prone areas of Ninh Thuan province. The study also examines the perceptions of local communities and government functionaries on the question of the extent to which drought-related vulnerabilities can be traced to climate change at the global level.We assessed the drought vulnerability of the rural communities in the most drought-prone areas in Ninh Thuan province by identifying drought impacts on a range of livelihood sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries. The impacts were ranked, and root causes were identified, on the basis of which appropriate policy interventions are suggested. Wherever possible, attempts were made to identify gender-disaggregated impacts and adaptation measures. At the end, a note has been provided on future directions for various potential stakeholders, in order to take forward the findings of the study.

The study revealed that rainfall in Ninh Thuan province has actually been increasing for some time. However, there are indications of increasing inter-annual variability, as evidenced by increasing deviation from the long-term mean. This could be the main reason for the increasing incidence of drought, rather than any decline in long-term rainfall. Another reason for increasing drought conditions is increasing demand for water. The province has witnessed a steady growth in the area under wet paddy cultivation and the production of maize and other perennial crops which need substantial inputs of water, compared with the dry rice grown in earlier years. Heavy reliance on groundwater has led to significant saline-water intrusion. The proliferation of aquaculture in many areas of the province has further contributed to the problems of drought.The survey found that communities were well aware of climate changes happening around them, notably higher temperatures and erratic rainfall. They attributed the drought not only to decline in forest cover in the province, but also to the poor environment-management practices elsewhere. Communities were of the opinion that the provision of better financial facilities and initiatives to diversify their livelihoods would substantially reduce their vulnerability to climate-related extremes. Discussions with government and non-government officials have corroborated these findings.Policy options identified in participatory consultation exercises with communities consist of better water-use management strategies, both at the field level and at the basin/command level, and introduction of better crop-management practices, including enhanced irrigation efficiency and introduction of drought-resistant crop varieties that use less water while not compromising the yield. The National Forum has recommended establishing dedicated Drought Management Boards at commune level on the lines of the flood-management boards, which have been successful. Such boards would not only enhance the response and relief operations but would also help to identify and implement appropriate drought-mitigation programmes by assessing local vulnerabilities.

Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Poverty Reduction: Synthesis Report

Hydrometeorological hazards such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones afflict many regions of the world, but their impact in terms of lives lost and livelihoods disrupted tends to fall most heavily on the poor in developing countries. Climate change threatens to heighten these impacts in many areas, both by changing the frequency and/or intensity of extreme events and by bringing changes in mean conditions that may alter the underlying vulnerability of populations to hazards. The result in the decades to come may be an increase in the global burden of weather-related disasters: events that can threaten the sustainability of development processes and undermine progress toward poverty reduction.

Holistic management of disaster risk requires action to reduce impacts of extreme events before, during and after they occur, including technical preventive measures and aspects of socio-economic development designed to reduce human vulnerability to hazards. Approaches toward the management of climate change impacts also have to consider the reduction of human vulnerability under changing levels of risk. A key challenge and opportunity therefore lies in building a bridge between current disaster risk management efforts aimed at reducing vulnerabilities to extreme events and efforts to promote climate change adaptation. There is a need to understand better the extent to which current disaster management practices reflect future adaptation needs and assess what changes may be required if such practices are to address future risks.

At the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in Kobe, Japan, 2005, the inter-agency Vulnerability and Adaptation Resource Group (VARG) presented the discussion paper “Disaster Risk Management in a Changing Climate” to support a dialogue on synergies and differences between approaches to disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change. At Kobe, the link between disaster risk management and climate change was subject of intensive formal and informal debates. Overall, the outcomes of WCDR call for a strengthening of preventive measures aimed at reducing loss of human lives, and loss of economic and environmental assets of communities and countries over the next ten years. The priorities for actions were outlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. The Framework supports a stronger recognition of climate change concerns in disaster risk reduction strategies and seeks to establish multi-disciplinary, forward looking approach. In this context the importance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognized.

These developments prompted VARG to initiate the follow-up project Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Poverty Reduction is a key contribution to this theme. The project used grounded examples in Mexico, Kenya and Vietnam and exchange of experiences across those contexts to provide insights into how a more integrated approach to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation can be built. Although risk assessments formed part of the studies, main emphasis was placed on analysing the institutional capacity and constraints/opportunities within the policy process. One area within each country was also selected for more detailed investigation to help ground and inform the national-level institutional analysis. The chosen areas were Nam Dinh province in Vietnam, Yucatan State in Mexico; and Kitui district in Kenya.

Cambodia National Adaptation Programme of Action to Climate Change (NAPA)

The Annotated Guidelines for the Preparation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action, based on Decision 28 of the 7th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provides the methodological basis for the development of NAPAs in least developed countries (UNFCCC, 2002). The identification of priority adaptation activities is the main goal of the NAPA formulation exercise. The formulation of the NAPA follows a participatory process that involves those who are most affected by climatic impacts, that is rural people and the poor. The NAPA builds upon existing coping strategies implemented by local communities in order to enhance their adaptation capacity. More specifically, the objectives of the NAPA project are: (1) to understand the main characteristics of climate hazards in Cambodia (flood, drought, windstorm, high tide, salt water intrusion and malaria); (2) to understand coping mechanisms to climate hazards and climate change at the grassroots level; (3) to understand existing programmes and institutional arrangements for addressing climate hazards and climate change; (4) to identify and prioritise adaptation activities to climate hazards and climate change.

Fair Adaptation to Climate Change

This article identifies social justice dilemmas associated with the necessity to adapt to climate change, examines how they are currently addressed by the climate change regime, and proposes solutions to overcome prevailing gaps and ambiguities. We argue that the key justice dilemmas of adaptation include responsibility for climate change impacts, the level and burden sharing of assistance to vulnerable countries for adaptation distribution of assistance between recipient countries and adaptation measures, and fair participation in planning and making decisions on adaptation. We demonstrate how the climate change regime largely omits responsibility but makes a general commitment to assistance. However, the regime has so far failed to operationalise assistance and has made only minor progress towards eliminating obstacles for fair participation. We propose the adoption of four principles for fair adaptation in the climate change regime. These include avoiding dangerous climate change, forward-looking responsibility, putting the most vulnerable first and equal participation of all. We argue that a safe maximum standard of 400–500 ppm of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and a carbon tax of $20–50 per carbon equivalent ton could provide the initial instruments for operationalising the principles.Environmental governance social justice; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change