ACT kicked off their second session at the start of May focussing on Extreme Weather Events and Natural Hazards.This session runs until December 2008. Dr. Gordon McBean, acclaimed climate scientist and Policy Chair for the Ontario-based Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, is acting as the lead policy author for this session.

Over June 2nd and 3rd ACT hosted the first of three invitation-only conferences associated with this session: Extreme Events: Municipalities Adapting to Climate Change. Two more, one on Public Safety, one on Infrastructure, are scheduled for the fall.

On the first day of the conference participants explored the current and projected climate change impacts on municipalities, the current responses, and discussed the policy challenges associated with these impacts and responses.Dr. Stewart Cohen, Senior Researcher with the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division of Environment Canada; Katrina Bennett, Hydrologist at the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium from the University of Victoria; and Neil Cunningham, Acting Manager for the Climate and Green Initiatives Branch for the Government of Manitoba, made presentations to the participants expanding the themes of the general discussions.

The night of June 2nd featured a well-attended public dialogue titled Extreme Events – Adapting to Climate Change.This town hall-style meeting featured brief presentations on climate-related hazards for municipalities, and offered the public an opportunity to engage with experts and each other on the challenges we face and possible solutions.Speakers for the event included: Dr. Gordon McBean; Hugh Fraser, Deputy Director of Engineering for the Corporation of Delta; Rose Kushniruk, Community Planner for the Lands and Resources Department of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation; and Ione Smith, Special Projects Coordinator for SmartGrowth BC.

The goals of the conference on June 3rd were to discuss the identification and implementation of viable policy options that can assist sustainable adaptation; explore the shortlist of policy challenges developed on day one; and gain to valuable feedback to contribute to ACT’s findings for the Extreme Weather Events and Natural Hazards session.To complement the on-going discussions, presentations were made by Margot Daykin, Manager of Sustainability Programs for Richmond; and Don Haley, Senior Project Manager for the Engineering Resource Science Section of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Some of the key themes identified by participants during the two day meetings included:

  • adaptation strategies must fit within the broader context of emergency planning and within the broader objectives of community sustainability;
  • no-regrets adaptation planning should be implemented, meaning that adaptation measures should consider unintended consequences, head off negative ones and find ways to capture co-benefits (for example, policies that have both positive adaptation and mitigation outcomes);
  • adaptation planning must be flexible and should include mechanisms for periodic monitoring and adjustment;
  • all sectors of the community should be engaged in and empowered by the adaptation process;
  • better public education and warning systems should be implemented in terms of extreme weather events;
  • and the importance of employing multi-level governance in addressing climate change adaptation.