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Building Community Resilience: Disaster Risk Reduction in a Changing Climate

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15:00, Wednesday 16 Jun 2021 EDT (1 hour 30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Climate change is and will continue to impact the systems that make-up and support communities globally (e.g. financial systems, health systems, urban and rural systems, etc.). These impacts, both acute and chronic, present ongoing challenges to communities as they work to promote and maintain the quality of life of their residents now and in the future. Preparing communities to cope with, respond to and recover from extreme events requires an extensive understanding of both current and projected climate change. Emergency managers, first responders, health system managers, community planners and other aligned professionals must see their work through a climate lens in order to effectively serve their communities.

Informed by extensive literature review and emerging lessons from the field this session approaches climate-resilience building with diverse perspectives on risk, risk reduction and climate change adaptation. This session includes views informed by approaches to recovery from hydrological hazards (e.g. flooding) as well as systems perspectives (e.g. urban systems, health systems, etc.) on adaptation and risk reduction efforts in both urban and rural contexts from across Canada. Presented work aims to identify means of operationalizing research findings in order to better enable communities in both low and high resource contexts to undertake resilience-building initiatives.

This session endeavours to advance the latest thinking on efforts to build resilience at the community scale by addressing ongoing efforts to build resilience through adaptation, the integration of resilience-thinking into long-term system planning, and opportunities to leverage synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate action. In doing so the participating speakers will address efforts to enhance our understanding of the risks facing communities, introduce ongoing research intended to inform resilience-building actions, highlight the need for adaptive management and call for the mobilization of available resources in pursuit of resilient community systems. Whether it be rural health systems, or efforts to rebuild in the most equitable and resilient manner possible, the long-term viability of many of our communities’ rests on our ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from climatically driven extreme events.

Building climate-resilient health systems in rural Atlantic Canada: Impacts and options in the context of ongoing climate change - Paddy Enright

Globally, rural health systems are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This builds on the numerous often interrelated factors already known to impact rural health and health systems (e.g. aging demographics, a higher burden of mental and physical illness, etc.). Within Canada, ongoing climate change threatens to bring both novel challenges (e.g. heat waves in more northern regions) but also to intensify hazards already impacting rural health systems (e.g. enhanced flood risk). Climate change not only creates an increased need for health systems, but threatens the very people, institutions and resources that these systems rely upon. Using Atlantic Canada as a study area, this presentation provides an overview of climate-resilience in the context of rural health systems, discusses potential novel or enhanced health system impacts, and identifies tools and adaptations which could be employed to build climate-resilient health systems in rural Atlantic Canada.

Managed Retreat, Community Resilience & Post flood decisions: A Comparative Case Study of Constance Bay, Ontario & Pointe Gatineau, Quebec

Shaieree Cottar

Natural hazards pose a significant risk to local economies, critical infrastructure and public health and safety. The strategy of managed retreat is focused on purchasing/buying-out, demolishing and relocating homes that are under the threat of flooding is one of the few policy options that is available to Quebec homeowners who are facing repeated long-term risks of flood-damaged homes. The alternative policy option available in Ontario is the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) program which is used to aid homeowners in repairing, cleaning and replacing damaged essential property. The 2017 and 2019 river floods in both Constance Bay and Pointe Gatineau indicated the need for increased government assistance for homeowners on how to cope with flood related events, effective policy deployment in both jurisdictions and future support and retreat options that homeowners can be offered in advance to help mitigate flood disaster risks. This presentation will facilitate policy makers to make informed evidence-based decisions that will protect communities from inundation risk.

Risk reduction through managed retreat: lessons from flood-related property buyouts in Grand Forks, BC

Melissa Le Geyt

The changing climate is resulting in more frequent and extreme natural hazard events such as flood. As communities build resilience to future flood risk, managed retreat is being explored as a tool for long-term adaptation. One community employing this tool is Grand Forks, BC, which experienced a 1-in-200 year flood in 2018. Guided by local actors, the community decided to move forward with a voluntary residential property buyout program which moved residents of close to 200 properties out of flood-prone areas. The first program of its kind in British Columbia, the Grand Forks buyouts have been described as a proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for countless communities across Canada that share comparable flood risk, varied policy tools, and limited capacity. This research explores the challenges and successes experienced by Grand Forks, providing lessons for communities and decision-makers interested in using managed retreat to reduce risk.

Program divergence in Canadian post-flood disaster recovery assistance: case studies from recently flooded communities in four Canadian provinces

Doberstein, B., Cottar, S., Le Geyt, M., and Wong, B.

Post-flood disaster recovery assistance is offered to Canadian homeowners through a complex mix of federal and provincial/territorial government programs, NGO programs (e.g. Red Cross), and private insurance. This research examined the similarities and differences between provincial disaster recovery programs in place in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Flood events affecting five Canadian communities (Grand Forks B.C., High River and Calgary AB, Constance Bay ON, and Pointe Gatineau QC) over the 2013-2019 period were used as an entry point into understanding the policies and programs that homeowners were able to tap into. Semi-structured key informant interviewing was the primary research method used in the study, and secondary data and direct observations were also used to complement interview-based data. The research revealed significant program variations across the four provinces. In Quebec for example, disaster recovery assistance in the form of home buyouts (aka ‘managed retreat’) was a key approach used in Pointe Gatineau where flooding affected the community in both 2017 and 2019. By contrast, the Disaster Recovery Assistance Ontario (DRAO) program, which guided the Province’s 2017 and 2019 flood recovery response in Constance Bay, does not allow payments for home buyouts: homeowners must rebuild in place in order to qualify for provincial recovery assistance funding. Based on this research, we suggest that in order to facilitate resilience to future flood events under a changing climate, provincial/territorial governments should aim to harmonize their flood recovery programs, and that these programs should allow for a wider range of flood recovery assistance options than is currently the case.

Strengthening community resilience by encouraging co-benefits in climate change hazard adaptation

Devon Jones

Hazard risk is evolving with climate change. Many climate-affected hazards are becoming more common, more severe, and less predictable. As a result, strengthening community resilience is more important than ever. Recognizing that many factors impact vulnerability, hazard adaptation should seek to address vulnerability on all fronts. This is where co-benefits become valuable. ‘Co-benefits’ are the secondary or unintended goals of a hazard adaptation project that are additional to the project’s primary function, but complementary to its objective of increasing community resilience. Co-benefits strengthen communities both by addressing hazard impacts and by increasing their capacity to deal with risks. To encourage the integration of co-benefits into more adaptation projects, this research contains a scoping literature review to clarify the current conceptualization of co-benefits in the hazards literature and presents decision-makers with a tool to systematically consider adaptation project co-benefits.

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