January 25, 2017

Overview of the Durham Community Climate Adaptation Plan

On December 14, 2016, the Durham Community Climate Adaptation Plan (DCCAP) was approved in principle by Durham Regional Council. The DCCAP includes 18 discrete climate adaptation programs across multiple sectors including buildings, roads, flooding, and human health. The DCCAP is the result of a three year process and represents a major accomplishment of the Durham Region Roundtable on Climate Change (DRRCC). The Region of Durham has received recognition for its leadership on climate adaptation planning by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. A copy of DCCAP is available here.

Rising global temperatures have set a record for the third year in a row. We know that the climate is changing both globally and here in Durham and that we are locked-in to significant change before the middle of the century. Our future climate can be summarized as: “warmer, wetter and wilder.”

On December 14, 2016, Durham’s Community Climate Adaptation Plan (DCCAP) was approved in principle by Durham Regional Council on behalf of the Durham community. The DCCAP is the Durham community’s response to the climate risks posed to our infrastructure, our health and welfare, and our economy. It is our attempt to prepare for a climate future that will be significantly different than when we constructed most of our roads, bridges, buildings, electricity grids, and storm water systems. This was a climate that was not envisioned when we designed our public health systems and created our economy.

The benefits of the DCCAP are the avoided future damage costs from climate change and extreme weather. Actual experience from recent Canadian extreme weather events indicates that these costs are in the billions of dollars each year. In 2012, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy estimated that every $1 spent now on adaptation will yield between $9 and $38 worth of avoided damages in the future.

The Region of Durham has coordinated key players across Durham over the last three years to consider the risks and opportunities to Durham from the changing climate and to prepare program proposals to proactively address this future and achieve the vision:

“In the face of a changing climate, Durham region remains a liveable, resilient and prosperous community through at least mid-century.”

The process of developing the DCCAP has been:

  • Scientifically-based – SENES Consultants were engaged to provide projections of the climate conditions in Durham in the 2040s. This work describes the mid-term future for which we need to plan.
  • Consultative – The relevant stakeholders across the Durham community were consulted on the impacts and implications of these climate projections.
  • Rigorous – Risk analyses were undertaken by expert stakeholders who identified the issues of greatest concern.
  • Peer-based – Best practice analysis among other municipalities identified best practices elsewhere.
  • Collaborative – Experts from the Region, local municipalities, electrical utilities, Conservation Authorities and the community were engaged to design the responsive programs needed in Durham.
  • Comprehensive – This Plan addresses six sectors in a coordinated fashion that covers most of Durham’s risk areas. Proposals for addressing remaining sectors (agriculture, telecommunications, provincial roads and other forms of transportation) are offered.

The 18 proposed programs in the Plan are:

Cross-Sectoral programs:

  • Protect Our Outside Workers
  • Social Infrastructure for Emergency Resilience

Building Sector programs:

  • The Durham Climate Resilience Standard for New Buildings
  • Building Retrofit for Climate Resilience

Electrical Sector programs:

  • Asset Protection against Flooding
  • Vegetation Management
  • Asset Design and Service Life Management program

Flooding programs:

  • Addressing Urban Flooding
  • Redefine Flood Hazards Considering Climate Change
  • Improving Flood Forecasting, Warning and Emergency Response
  • Addressing Riverine Flooding

Human Health programs:

  • Extreme Weather Alert and Response (EWAR) System
  • Property Standards By-laws for Maximum Temperature Allowed in Apartments
  • “Cool Durham” Heat Reduction program

Roads programs:

  • Resilient Asphalt program
  • Road Embankment program
  • Adaptive Culverts and Bridges

Natural Environment program:

  • Achieving Climate Change Resilience in the Natural Environment

Responsibility for implementing these programs is a complex matter as legal responsibility and financial authority is distributed among:

  • the Region of Durham,
  • local municipalities,
  • electrical utilities,
  • Conservation Authorities,
  • provincial agencies, and
  • federal agencies.

Adequately addressing climate resilience needs in Durham will be a long-term process, one that will require extraordinary institutional memory, jurisdictional dedication and inter-agency collaboration. We will be at this task for the rest of our lives and that of our children.

For more information about climate change initiatives being undertaken in Durham please visit www.durham.ca/climatechange.

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