How your municipality can start adapting to climate change. The following includes a step-by-step process proposal.
Even though the term climate adaptation may be unknown to many, it does not entail anything new in relation to regular municipal planning. However, climate change can have an impact on the responsibilities of all sectors and will therefore lead to some new challenges as regards both coordination and cooperation across departments and with regard to external players. Therefore, administrative and political support and, not least, motivation for the work will be useful.
How can you achieve cooperation within the municipality, possibly jointly with other municipalities? What about local industry and commerce? Or the citizens of the municipality? And how do you deal with signals and follow-up from regional authorities?
Knowledge of climate change
Planning for uncertainty can be demanding, partly due to the fact that planning can no longer be based on historical data. However, all municipalities possess a lot of expertise and knowledge of local conditions that is important to use. For example; Where do avalanches, rock and mudslides usually occur in the municipality? Are there areas that are vulnerable to erosion? Are there clay/quick clay areas? Where does the water go in the case of major flooding? Have we implemented measures that make us more vulnerable to increased precipitation, e.g. denser residential areas involving the removal of old and natural flood routes? Or do we have vulnerable sources of drinking water?
This knowledge is still very important, and must be combined with new knowledge concerning which climate changes your region will experience. For example, if your municipality is planning to develop coastal property, you should be aware of the existing research on expected sea levels and storm surges in 2050 and 2100. Exactly how much precipitation or how many degrees the temperature will increase by, is not that important. More important is rather asking yourself: What can we deal with? At what altitude must we build to be certain, based on the knowledge we have today of the effect of future climate changes? Which areas are vulnerable in case of increased precipitation?
Both the sea level report and temperature and precipitation changes in 2050 and 2100 can be found for your region in this guide and elsewhere on the portal.
County Preparedness Manager Haavard Stensvand in Sogn og Fjordane County has prepared a flow chart (pdf) showing how the municipality can carry out the process from A to Z.
Cooperation and overview
Checking out the status of climate adaptation in your own municipality can be a good start. Experience shows that climate adaptation measures are often underway in various parts of the organisation, without necessarily being called climate adaptation measures. Our experience shows that it is most often the water supply and sewage department which, due to experiencing more water and extreme precipitation, has implemented various measures.
Which agencies or people have worked with such issues? Are the municipalities conscious of this, or is it happening by coincidence? What is the level of knowledge regarding climate changes and their impact on employees in the municipality? What kind of expertise does the municipality have in this area? Is unnecessary or inappropriate work carried out due to a lack of internal communication? Ideally, such questions should be clarified before proceeding.
Tools: One way of involving larger parts of the organisation would be to conduct an internal survey, preferably based on some of the questions (pdf) which we have prepared for this purpose. For example, the City of Oslo has carried out an internal survey to gain an overview of the status of climate adaptation work in the municipality.
Organisational measures? The aim is to integrate the work on climate adaptation in all relevant areas, but in which a few organisational steps may be helpful, at least initially. It is often a big advantage to have one or more individuals dedicated to initiating and coordinating the work, as well as contributing to building competence and keeping track of the work internally. As an alternative, regular meetings could be held with relevant professionals across the organisation during the start-up process.
In DSB's municipality survey of 2010, it appears most municipalities have placed the responsibility for climate adaptation on each individual service area/sector (35%), 23% report that the work is coordinated by one person, while 21% report that the work is coordinated by a group. Municipalities with a population of more than 50,000 report that the work is coordinated by a group and/or is done in cooperation with other municipalities/external players to a larger extent than smaller municipalities. 23% of the municipalities report that no one has been dedicated to be in charge of this work so far.
Raising awareness of the consequences
The Norwegian Climate Adaptation Programme has developed ClimateSTART as a tool to help municipalities with making an initial rough survey of their own climate challenges, possible consequences and vulnerability. ClimateSTART can be used in various ways: Either in a joint conference for various municipal activities and sectors, for one single sector with specific problems (e.g. water and sewage), or to conduct general and initial evaluations related to land development.
ClimateSTART (with examples)pdf
The tool may contribute to increasing awareness among those involved in such work, and improve coordination between various sectors and levels in the municipality by enabling them to see relevant links more clearly. This exercise could also contribute to putting climate changes and consequences on the agenda in the municipality.
A useful exercise could be to first look at vulnerability in relation to the existing climate, whether or not measures have been taken to meet these challenges, and whether any measures have been implemented which have led to increased vulnerability (e.g., have individual permits have been assigned in building matters which could increase climate-related problems because one has failed to see the bigger picture?). Then one could look at one’ s own vulnerability in light of the anticipated future climate and its impact.
The theme map is a tool for assisting planners in getting an overview of which areas need closer consideration. Theme maps could be prepared for areas with a potential landslide or flood risk, or for coastal areas that are vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges.
Theme maps assist in surveying vulnerable areas, and may be used for further analysis of such areas. For example, theme maps can reveal that nursing homes, day-care centres or schools, major roads or other infrastructure are located in areas that could be exposed to landslides, flooding or storm surge/rising sea levels.
The road ahead – prioritise and implement
A preliminary survey using ClimateSTART and perhaps a theme map could provide a good overview of areas which the municipality should assess more closely.
Integrating climate adaptation into the planning process would be a first goal towards achieving more systematic work processes. This means taking future climate change into consideration in municipal climate and energy plans and sector plans, or in connection with the planning strategy, plan programme, the community section of the municipal plan or the land-use plan, or review of the plans if relevant. This provides a better overview of the areas requiring risk and vulnerability assessments, impact assessments, preparation of theme maps, etc.
For more information on how to proceed, go to the last step in the Guide: The road ahead