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Council approves Climate Change Resiliency Plan

Posted: April 14, 2021

 
Council approves Climate Change Resiliency Plan

 
East St. Paul council approved its Climate Change Resiliency Plan last month, the second of three reports that make up the RM’s Climate Change Plan.

In late 2018 the RM was successful in applying for the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program, a grant supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The grant paid for the salary of one full-time staff position devoted to the development of a Climate Change Plan.

The focus of this plan was preparing the RM for the risks associated with climate change through climate adaptation. The RM is separately addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions through the Local Action Plan, which can be found on the RM’s website.

The Climate Change Plan is composed of three reports: The Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, the Resiliency Plan, and the Implementation Strategy.

Engagement with the community was critical, and primarily occurred through the Climate Change Advisory Committee, a group of 10 residents who volunteered their time to commit feedback to the process. The Climate Change Steering Committee, composed of RM staff members and Coun. Carla Devlin, was also instrumental in the development of the Climate Change Plan.

The RM’s Risk and Vulnerability Assessment engaged RM residents, staff, and council to help determine the risks associated with climate change that residents, local wildlife, and infrastructure were likely to face.

Peer-reviewed science and the latest predictions from Canada’s climate models (which are partly developed at the University of Winnipeg) helped guide these discussions. The result of this was the identification of nine climate hazards that are expected to impact the RM. The assessment also included the definition of three Resiliency Visions and Goals, or the desired future state of the RM where the risks of climate change have been met with positive action.

Based on the findings of the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, a series of Resiliency Actions were proposed in the second report, the Resiliency Plan. The aim of the Resiliency Actions is to better prepare the community against the climate hazards identified in the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment.

Community input was sought through a public digital survey (The "Building a Resilient Community Survey”, released March 12th) for the purposes of understanding the community’s level of concern with each identified climate hazard.

A report on the full results of this survey can be found on the RM’s website. By cross-referencing the Resiliency Actions against which climate hazards they helped mitigate, the actions could be prioritized.

Finally, the Implementation Strategy, the third of the three reports forming the Climate Change Plan, seeks to provide a schedule for the completion of the Resiliency Actions. Each action was assigned a responsible staff member and a schedule for completion.

Staff time and budget estimates were made, as well as potential sources of funding. The Implementation Strategy also lays out an annual review and monitoring framework that will provide an annual "check-up” on the progress of the plan. The annual review will be shared with the community through this newsletter.

The Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, the Resiliency Plan and the Implementation Strategy have all been adopted by council, and copies of the full reports can be found on the RM’s website. 

RM staff members are hard at work planning for the actions that have been laid out for them. But the ultimate goal is to provide a superior level of service to RM residents, and to work towards a safer community for everyone.

This plan is an important first step in addressing the risks of climate change, but it is not a final solution. The Climate Change Plan is meant to be re-evaluated on a regular basis to update our understanding of climate risks facing the community, to propose new actions to address those risks, and to find a new path forward toward our Resiliency Goals.
 

 
Why is a Climate Change Plan important?
 
Climate Change is occurring at an unprecedented rate, and is making the climate more variable and less predictable. Changes to precipitation patterns and temperature patterns are expected to result in more extreme weather events, and changes to the growing season.

Average temperatures are expected to increase by 2◦C from 2021-2050. Higher temperatures year round will result in an increased number of frost free days, and it is likely that we will see higher temperatures earlier in the year. It is projected that the number of very hot days (+30 ◦C) will increase substantially. Longer, hotter summers lead to warmer ground surface temperatures, providing optimal conditions for thunderstorms. Thunderstorms often generate destructive winds such as straight-line winds or tornados.

The average precipitation rate is expected to increase in all seasons, although it is anticipated that precipitation patterns will change, resulting in larger dumps of rain at once rather than scattered throughout a season. This could increase the frequency and severity of spring and late winter flooding, and in the summer months, it is likely that the potential for droughts will increase.

In terms of winter storms, they will be more likely characterized by winter rain or ice storms rather than snow storms. It is projected that we will see a decrease in blizzards and an increase in ice storms and hail. Hail causes the most economic losses in property and crop damage of all extreme weather events. Ice storms can cause trees to break and fall on homes, power lines, and cars.

The risks are clear, and the evidence is piling up. Eight of the top 10 most destructive extreme weather events in Canada since 1983 have occurred in the last 10 years, and six of those have occurred in the prairies. Governments of all levels are taking notice and taking action.

 

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