Becoming a Climate-Ready City

“Urban governments are at the heart of successful urban adaptation because so much of this depends on local assessments and integrating adaptation into local investments, policies and regulatory frameworks.”

― Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, 2014

The City of Thunder Bay recognizes the need for climate change adaptation to build long-term resilience, reduce risks, and take advantage of future opportunities. The vision, goals, objectives, and actions of this strategy have been developed to achieve this and foster a prosperous future for the City.

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3.1. Current Status

Many of the City’s past and current actions are contributing to its ability to adapt to climate change, but existing plans, policies and procedures are not necessarily labelled as “adaptation actions”. The focus of the Climate Adaptation Strategy is to align current resources to increase the resilience of the Corporation from a strategic perspective. The actions presented in this strategy provide direction for the City to strengthen policies, develop new programs or practices where gaps exist, work collaboratively with key partners and other levels of governments, and undertake the steps necessary to integrate climate adaptation as a core function within the Corporation.

There is significant overlap between climate change adaptation and existing corporate priorities and many of the adaptation actions presented in this strategy contribute to goals identified in other plans, strategies, and policies. Examples include stormwater management, urban forest management, urban design guidelines, official planning, community emergency preparedness, and sustainability goals in general. The integration of the Climate Adaptation Strategy with existing plans will serve to pull everything together, bridge cross-departmental gaps, and increase the City’s resilience to climate change impacts while building on existing strengths.

3.2. The Vision

The vision of the City’s Climate Adaptation Strategy is to build resilience within the Corporation to reduce the risks inherent in climate change while taking advantage of opportunities and building upon existing adaptive actions.

The intent of this strategy is to provide strategic direction to the City of Thunder Bay in order to achieve this vision and become a climate-ready city. The goals, objectives, and key principles that were developed to do this are listed in Table 4 while the actions identified have been grouped into seven strategic directions and are presented in section four of the strategy. Details on the work completed to develop these goals, objectives, key principles, and actions are provided in the Milestone Three Climate Adaptation Action Plan.


The goals of the Climate Adaptation Strategy are the foundation around which the objectives and potential adaptation actions for the were identified. These were developed based on the City’s nine priority impacts, stakeholder engagement, and additional background analysis. They provide the framework to move forward in achieving the climate adaptation vision.

Objectives & Key Principles

As per the ICLEI BARC Five Milestone Framework, while the climate adaptation goals were developed as statements of intention to guide the City’s efforts at a high level, the objectives address specific issues within the context of a goal and are designed to address the SMART criteria (strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). The objectives describe the City’s approach in addressing the priority impacts and represent a detailed articulation of the ways in which the vision will be achieved.

It became evident that some of the opportunities for climate adaption planning were common to all goals and would be essential to the success of the overall strategy. These items were designated as key principles and separated from the other objectives in recognition of their overarching relevance to all goals.


The 45 climate adaptation actions identified in this strategy represent options the municipality can employ to act on the potential impacts of climate change. These are presented as potential short, medium, and long-term climate adaptation actions which would contribute to the realization of the overall climate adaptation vision, goals, objectives and key principles.

Strategic Directions

While identifying the City’s adaptive actions, several unifying themes emerged. These are presented as seven strategic directions and provide a clear direction for the City to move forward with the implementation of its actions. The City’s seven strategic directions and their associated actions are the core of this strategy are and presented in section four.

Where to Focus Adaptation Efforts
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  • Emergency Management

    In Thunder Bay, the Community Emergency Management Group coordinates the City's response to emergencies in order to preserve life, health, property and the environment. Emergency managers will continue to play a critical role in our community's preparation, response and recovery to extreme weather events.
  • Stormwater Management

    The way stormwater is managed will be crucial as extreme weather events increase in frequency and intensity. The City's Stormwater Management Master Plan will consider climate change impacts and focus on resilient Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Infrastructure to reduce and treat stormwater while also delivering many other benefits to the community.
  • Urban Forestry

    Healthy trees and forests provide communities with a host of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and sustainability benefits. Active planning, management, and care of our urban forest through the City's Urban Forest Management Plan and urban forest programs are necessary to increase the resiliency of the City.
  • Infrastructure Asset Management

    The impacts of climate change pose immediate and long-term threats to the City's infrastructure. Integrating climate adaptation into municipal asset management can inform decision-making and strategic long-term investments to reduce the risks associated with climate change impacts and capitalize on opportunities.
  • Community Planning

    Land use planning and development policies through the City’s Official Plan can increase resilience and decrease vulnerability. Through the Zoning By-law and with Urban Design Guidelines, community planning can promote compact form and a mix of employment and housing to shorten commute journeys, encourage energy-efficient design to lessen impacts on the environment, and consider the benefits of healthy ecosystems and local food production.

Table 4: Goals, Objectives & Key Principles informing the Strategic Directions and Actions presented in section four of the strategy.

GOAL 1. Integrate climate change adaptation into operational procedures as well as land-use, financial and strategic planning.

Objective 1.1 Systematically incorporate adaptation considerations into City of Thunder Bay strategies, policies, procedures, plans (including land-use planning), and asset management, as well as into annual and long-term financial planning.

Objective 1.2 Create partnerships to regularly assess climate change risks and vulnerabilities to the community and the Corporation and use this knowledge to inform decision-making.

Goal 2. Respond and recover effectively from sustained and/or multiple extreme events in the region.

Objective 2.1 Work in partnership with federal, provincial and aboriginal governments to improve the ability of the City of Thunder Bay to prepare for, respond to, and recover from extreme weather events.

Objective 2.2 Determine proactive measures to support the financial and infrastructure recovery of the City of Thunder Bay following extreme weather events.

Objective 2.3 Identify opportunities to support existing, and pursue new, business, governmental and community networks that bring resiliency to the region.

GOAL 3. Support the community in preparing for, responding to and recovering from extreme weather events.

Objective 3.1 Increase safety and reduce health risks for populations impacted by severe weather events, particularly those who have an increased need for housing, medical and social support services.

Objective 3.2 Evaluate the capacity of City-run and community-based social and emergency services to respond to and recover from extreme weather events.

Objective 3.3 Educate citizens on impacts of extreme weather events and the importance of preparedness for and recovery from these events.

GOAL 4. Consider climate change impacts in the design, construction and maintenance of physical infrastructure while considering affordability and co-benefits.

Objective 4.1 Incorporate new technology and best practices in the design, construction and maintenance of new municipal infrastructure and facilities to minimize service disruption and increase resiliency.

Objective 4.2 Identify retrofit opportunities for municipal infrastructure to minimize service disruptions related to extreme weather events.

Objective 4.3 Investigate areas of priority to incorporate best practices and green infrastructure into community and land-use planning and design.

GOAL 5. Foster resiliency of the city’s natural landscape to ongoing changes in climate.

Objective 5.1 Increase the long-term resiliency of the urban forest, parks, open spaces and natural heritage features including water bodies to minimize the impacts of climate change.

Objective 5.2 Preserve and enhance natural landscape features that increase the City’s resiliency.

Key PRINCIPLES Common to all goals

Key Principle I. Provide ongoing funding and support of adaptation projects that are in line with City’s short-term and long-term financial planning framework.

Key Principle II. Seek investment and lobby for resources (federal, provincial, private) to support the City’s adaptation efforts.

Key Principle  III. Develop and provide internal education and staff training regarding the City’s adaptation efforts.

Key Principle IV. Communicate adaptation efforts to a variety of public/community audiences and encourage residents to adopt climate resilient adaptation efforts.

4.0 Strategic Directions
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