New FOMG paper considers climate risk & adaptation

The Future of Municipal Government (FOMG) initiative is a partnership between ABmunis and the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. It considers the financial, political, social, cultural and environmental challenges facing municipalities today and produces a series of discussion papers by leading researchers.

Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Considerations for Municipal Government by Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler is the fourth paper in the FOMG series.

Key Takeaways

Some of the key takeaways from Tyler's paper are:

  • We have all experienced the impact of extreme weather in our communities. From floods to flash storms – weather can wreak havoc. Like it or not, extreme weather incidents are happening more often. How municipalities adapt to changing weather challenges is the subject of this paper. 
  • Three major risks were identified: infrastructure, water, and governance capacity. 
  • The existing structures of municipal government are appropriate. Municipalities have the necessary legislative authority to provide good governance to their communities and meet these challenges. 
  • Local governments need additional capacity to effectively integrate emergency responses and long-term planning to address the risk of extreme weather. Smaller communities in particular need access to expertise and funding. 

Working towards progress

The paper identifies several strategies to help us thrive in the face of adversity. These include:

  • Intermunicipal Collaborative Frameworks (ICFs) were created to share costs among neighbours for shared municipal services, but they also have the potential to collaborate on climate risk assessments, adaptation, and emergency management. 
  • Natural Asset Management is a growing field that recognizes the value of the landscape to absorb the impacts of extreme weather. Land-use planning can take advantage of natural features, like wetlands, to promote communities that have been planned with climate risk in mind.  
  • All our economic and social activities depend on infrastructure. Extreme weather leads to unpredictable infrastructure performance. Innovative new design standards are needed to strengthen infrastructure so it can handle extreme weather events. 
  • The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) provides funding and expertise for adaptation projects. 

Future Direction

Effective risk assessment depends on having the right information available when decisions are being made. Tyler’s research paper proposes stronger relationships between Alberta universities and municipalities. Specifically, proactive outreach from universities to municipalities to assist with risk assessment, land-use planning, adaptation strategies, infrastructure design standards and asset management.

The paper’s underlying message is that collaboration is key. Our ability to meet the challenges of an uncertain climate depends on us working together.

The full paper can be found here.