Local government climate change adaptation

B.C.’s climate is changing and climate scientists are projecting further changes over the next decades. Climate change adaptation involves preparing for these changes and the impacts they will have on natural systems and communities.

Communities are experiencing the impacts of climate change including more frequent and intense storms, increasing temperatures, drought, wildfire, sea level rise and flooding.

The goal of climate adaptation is to reduce risk and vulnerability associated with climate change. To manage these climate change risks, municipalities and regional districts are integrating adaptation principles into their decisions and every day activities, in addition to undertaking their mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction) activities.

Municipalities and regional districts have responsibility in a wide range of areas such as:

  • Land use planning and management
  • Finance
  • Infrastructure and asset management
  • Recreation
  • Health and safety
  • Emergency management
  • Protection from hazards.

Addressing adaptation in an integrated, collaborative manner that considers regional capacity and opportunities can help ensure service continuity, reduced liability and costs, improved public health and safety, and the continued liveability of communities.

Climate impacts are location-specific and therefore individual communities are best placed to undertake their own risk and vulnerability assessments, consider regional capacity and opportunities and develop location-specific adaptation activities.

Learn more about a sample risk evaluation matrix and questions to ask when developing adaptation strategies:

Regional climate changes and impacts

The effects of a changing climate vary and will continue to vary significantly from region to region in B.C., from sea level rise and flooding in some areas to drought and increased risk of wildfire and invasive species in others.

Communities can experience more than one impact at a time (for example, drought and invasive pests at the same time) or may experience multiple impacts in the same year (for example, one community experienced flooding, drought and wild fire in the same year).

Projecting future climate conditions with Plan2Adapt

Plan2Adapt is a web-based tool developed by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium that generates projected future climate conditions. The tool predicts future data for temperature, precipitation, snowfall, growing degree days, heating degree days and frost free days and the possible impacts on sectors such as agriculture, biodiversity, fisheries, forestry, hydrology, infrastructure and land use and planning.

The tool, originally designed for use by local governments is now available for health authorities, ecoprovinces (ecosystem classification) and forestry regions.

Preparing for climate change, an implementation guide for local governments in British Columbia

The Preparing for Climate Change, An Implementation Guide for Local Governments in British Columbia has 90 direct links to local governments' actions, a checklist with 128 questions, and considerations for local governments with limited resources.

The guide also provides three adaptation scenarios to help local governments:

  • Mainstream climate change into planning and land use
  • Incorporate climate science about natural hazards into planning and land use
  • Use innovative visioning tools

Considerations for adaptation

Many tools used by local governments to address adaptation will be familiar (for example, official community plans, zoning, development permits). For adaptation purposes, some new considerations are important:

  • Time horizons longer than five years for official community plans or financial plans are central to adaptation work
  • The past is no longer a good indicator of future climate and climate impacts, particularly with respect to natural hazards and conditions and the demands they place on infrastructure
  • There may be uncertainty about some future climate impacts; it's important that this doesn't delay work on adaptation
  • Community engagement in climate solutions is beneficial, particularly if trade-offs are needed
  • Strengthening the key links between adaptation and strategic planning, finance, asset management and emergency management helps support community sustainability and resilience

Consider adaptation activities that have co-benefits with mitigation such as expanding the tree canopy, shade programs, green roofs, better designed and insulated buildings, and local food production and markets.

Learn more about:

Guidance and resources

Climate change visioning

Visioning is a useful tool to be able to quickly “see” the extent of climate impacts and proposed solutions.

Climate change projections data and impacts

Impact specific

Funding and programs