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Building Climate Resilience

On April 9 I had the pleasure to attend a Building Climate Resilience Conference, offered by PEGNL. I thought I would share some of my notes and pose some questions based on what I heard. Looking forward to your thoughts. 

In addition to a panel discussion of building climate resilience, one of the discussions was geared towards asset management, and another session on the legal implications of climate change and the necessity to mitigate.

Asset management is the process of making decisions about the use and care of infrastructure to deliver services in a way that considers current and future needs, manages risks and opportunities, and makes the best use of resources

One panelist stressed that collaboration is essential in having the biggest impact for our dollar when it comes to climate change mitigation. Capacity building should include fostering awareness and building toolkits as it relates to mitigation efforts. In larger municipalities, peer-learning and ongoing skills development is important. With 280 incorporated municipalities, more regional approaches to infrastructure and operations could be more openly discussed. 

Asset management gives municipalities a greater ability to track their assets and incorporate schedules for repairs and reinvestment for example into an infrastructure program. 

Looking at other jurisdictions:

  • Sustainable Service Delivery in BC:
    • These best practices profile and reinforce that:
    • Community infrastructure is a foundation of sustained and growing economic and social development.
    • Infrastructure is critical to meeting recreational, institutional, cultural and other needs of the community.
    • Properly built and effectively maintained infrastructure supports public health and safety, and mitigates potential adverse environmental impacts.
    • Well-informed decisions contribute to achieving the goals of the community, while balancing the financial capacity of current and future generations.
    • In order to achieve sustainable service delivery through the asset management process, it is important to account for all ‘assets’ that are used to deliver community services. This includes natural assets such as water, land and vegetation. These assets not only provide services by themselves, but are also leveraged to support services such as drinking water, wastewater and rainwater/stormwater services.

Creating an inventory of assets is a necessary first step to creating a management plan for assets. Infrastructure assets are critical to quality of life and the economy.

Examples of Assets:

  • Drinking water
    • Intake structures
    • Transmission mains
    • Distribution pipes
    • Pump stations
    • Communal wells
    • Treatment plants
    • Reservoirs
  • Wastewater
    • Wastewater trunks
    • Collection pipes
    • Treatment plants
  • Transportation
    • Roads
    • Bridges and guide rails
    • Sidewalks and pathways
    • Other structure (retaining walls, noise barriers)
    • Signage, lighting, traffic signals
  • Public transit
    • Bus stops and shelter
    • Access, transfer and shelter structures
    • Park and ride lots
    • Maintenance and storage yards
    • Tracks and signage
    • Walkways

Climate change adaptation is good for municipal planning. Municipalities can identify lands that need to be preserved for biodiversity, recreation etc, and set those locations aside. Boundaries for municipalities may be set out, but nature doesn’t care about our town limits. As an example, how the headwaters are managed in the town of Paradise has a huge impact on the city of Mount Pearl and St. John’s.

We have to consider: What is the risk that communities are assuming by allowing developments to occur in the floodplain, or by doing things that might impact the downstream for other communities?

How do you measure the value of continuously adapting, instead of or in addition to planning shovel-ready big ticket projects like a new recreation centre? How do we sustain momentum? And is it possible to make upgrading infrastructure as electorally-popular as building new things?

Municipalities need to keep monitoring, adjusting and planning improvements to our existing infrastructure, recognizing the need for a transition to a stewardship phase within society in the broadest sense. 

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