Most Canadian cities have failed to assess the threats they’ll face as climate change makes weather disasters more frequent and severe, according to a new study in the journal Climatic Change.
“Cities are the most vulnerable government to climate change in Canada but have the least resources in order to manage the problem, so it’s imperative that they have some strategy or plan,” said co-author Jason Thistlethwaite of the University of Waterloo. But across the 63 cities the study team assessed from coast to coast, “almost all plans failed to include an assessment of the municipality’s vulnerability to specific climate change impacts,” Thistlethwaite and colleagues wrote.
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Kingston, Ontario emerged as the city with the best municipal climate change plan in Canada, The Canadian Press reports.
The research team measured cities’ climate emergency preparedness against 46 indicators, including baseline information, goals, implementation, evaluation, and public participation. It found that only seven had identified specific neighbourhoods at risk, only 12 had pinpointed specific industries, and “many cities hadn’t done enough research to be able to write a comprehensive plan,” CP states.
Thistlethwaite noted that climate change puts cities in a particular bind: they’re chronically short of cash to fill potholes and run transit systems, and planning for climate change could undercut their main source of income.
“Their revenue is from property taxes, so they want to expand development,” he told CP. “When they say they’re going to restrict development in a certain area, that (creates) incredible pressure for them to ignore the advice of their staff.”
But CP notes that failing to plan for future climate impacts has consequences of its own. “You’re likely to see property taxes go up as municipalities are forced to collect more money to pay for damaged infrastructure,” said City of Kingston Environmental Director Paul MacLatchy. “You’re likely to see property values go down in areas where there are recurring high risks.”
Ultimately, Thistlethwaite said cities need more resources for climate resilience planning and “much more leadership from upper tiers of government”.
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