Executive Summary

Thousands of scientists around the world are warning that the Earth’s climate system has been changing in an unprecedented way since the 1950’s. The impacts of these large changes in weather patterns are already being felt globally and locally. Prolonged heat waves, torrential rainstorms, windstorms, and droughts are increasing throughout Ontario. In Thunder Bay, severe storms, extreme rain events, and the extreme cold temperatures experienced in recent years show that these types of impacts have the potential to affect all City Departments and can incur high costs to the community as a whole.
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Over 170 people including members of City Council, City managers and staff, key professionals and stakeholders, and EarthCare community partners have been engaged in the development of the City of Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Strategy.

In the face of climate change, the City of Thunder Bay recognizes the need for adaptation. While mitigation is necessary to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, adaptation is essential to reduce the damages from climate change impacts that cannot be avoided. Integrating climate adaptation across the Corporation provides an opportunity to coordinate decision-making and planning efforts in order to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience in all departments, thereby minimizing the severity of the resulting impacts and taking advantage of opportunities.

The City of Thunder Bay has opted to utilize ICLEI Canada’s (Local Governments for Sustainability) internationally-recognized municipal planning process, the Building Adaptive & Resilient Communities (BARC) Five Milestone Framework, and tailor it to the City’s priorities to develop this Climate Adaptation Strategy. Using the ICLEI methodology, the City endeavoured to create a strategy led by the Corporation while incorporating multi-stakeholder involvement.

The development of this strategy centred on workshops and engagement activities that leveraged expertise and local knowledge of City Council, City managers and staff, service sector professionals, key community stakeholders and EarthCare community partners. In total, over 170 people have been engaged in the development of the City’s Climate Adaptation Strategy to ensure that it aligns with existing organizational priorities and can be integrated within departmental functions.

The focus of the Climate Adaptation Strategy is to build on the City’s existing strengths and align current resources to increase the resilience of the Corporation from a strategic perspective. The goal is to build resilience within the Corporation to reduce the risks inherent in climate change and take advantage of opportunities while building upon existing adaptive actions to help the City prepare for, respond to, and recover from the potential impacts of climate change with an emphasis on increasing the resilience of infrastructure and the natural environment.

Hundreds of potential climate change impacts were considered for the City of Thunder Bay. Out of these, nine priority impacts were systematically identified and used to develop goals, objectives and key principles. Through analysis and prioritization, a total of 45 potential adaptation actions were identified.

While identifying the City’s adaptive actions, several unifying themes emerged and offered a clear direction for the City to move forward with implementation. Thus, the following seven strategic directions were established:

  • Integrate climate adaptation considerations into plans, policies, procedures, projects, and investment decisions;
  • Assess potential threats to understand the risks of climate change impacts;
  • Increase the resilience of municipal infrastructure and natural landscapes;
  • Provide information, tools, and training on climate adaptation to facilitate and accelerate action;
  • Plan for the financing and long term implementation of adaptive actions;
  • Investigate opportunities to increase the resilience of the region through networks and strategic collaboration; and,
  • Continue to plan for efficient response and recovery to extreme weather events.

The adaptation actions were analyzed from the lens of implementation to identify resources required to move forward. Short-term actions, i.e. those requiring less than two years to implement, were identified as ‘quick wins’ that can be used to build a sense of success and momentum. In comparison, longer-term actions will require ongoing and collaborative efforts over a number of years to achieve success.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy reflects the significant commitment of the City of Thunder Bay to addressing climate change impacts. It is a long-term initiative that will require participation and engagement across all City Departments as well as collaboration amongst community stakeholders in order to successfully achieve the City’s climate adaptation vision. An implementation framework was developed to provide a detailed roadmap with which to move forward in putting the adaptation opportunities identified into action.

The successful implementation of the strategy will require multi-year commitment of resources although the level of resources needed may change throughout implementation to reflect existing decision-making processes, evaluation, annual review, budget, and external factors. A number of key elements have emerged for consideration as the City moves forward into implementation and ongoing refinement of the Strategy including ongoing collaboration and partnerships, the need for staffing and resources, long-term governance, and emerging opportunities.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy is intended to be a living document and will continue to be revised and updated as climate change science and adaptation practices evolve. As the first Climate Adaptation Strategy for the City of Thunder Bay, many of the proposed actions focus on increasing understanding of coming challenges, identifying potential gaps, and integrating climate change into current processes to incorporate resiliency into existing everyday operations and long-term planning. The actions proposed herein are intended to be mainstreamed into regular municipal functions in a way that integrates climate adaptation as a core function within the Corporation.

Message from the Mayor
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