Vancouver prepares for flood-related impacts of sea level rise

Gregor Robertson
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

VANCOUVER City Council has approved three recommendations, which will prepare the city’s vulnerable areas for sea level rise by implementing and planning for coastal flood protection. The recommendations focus on engagement, development, and design along the city’s coastline; ensuring sea level rise is considered in future and ongoing developments.

“Vancouver faces very real impacts with sea level rise and we must be prepared,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Vancouver is focused on being among the most resilient, livable and green cities in the world which means taking bold action to reduce our environmental impact and adapt to climate change. I’m excited to hear from Vancouver residents and experts who have ideas on how we can best protect our homes, coastline, and iconic landmarks from the potentially massive costs and damage resulting from sea level rise and coastal flooding.”

The report includes a summary of the most recent Coastal Flood Risk Assessment (CFRA) work, which has provided the City with a thorough understanding of local risks and vulnerabilities to sea level rise, and a high-level understanding of the potential options available to protect and adapt our coastline.

Information from the CFRA work informed the approved recommendations put forward by staff:

  1. Update to City by-laws to ensure new developments are setback from the coastline to allow for future flood protection infrastructure.
  2. Development of new procedures to guide the design of coastal flood protection infrastructure so that they meet future needs.
  3. Allocation of up to $500,000 from the City’s 2018 Innovation Fund toward a local sea level rise design challenge that will engage residents to determine the best solutions for each section of Vancouver’s coastline.

The approval of funding toward an engagement and design challenge is an important step to increase public awareness and ensure residents, businesses and stakeholders are able to participate in the planning process to find solutions unique to Vancouver’s coastline.

Vancouver, like other coastal cities around the world, will experience sea level rise and storm surge events over the coming decades and centuries due to climate change. Currently, the City is basing response plans on the provincial government’s sea level rise projections of half-a-meter by 2050 and a meter by 2100, meaning that 13-square-kilometers of Vancouver’s land could be impacted if no flood management interventions are taken. Between now and 2100, the City will work with residents and stakeholders to secure flexible and adaptive shoreline solutions for a range of ocean and river levels that enhance Vancouver’s resilience to flooding and deliver many benefits to the community such as recreation, culture, a thriving environment and economic opportunities.

Globally, flood-related impacts of climate change are already causing billions of dollars in damage. Many coastal cities, like Vancouver, are now taking proactive measures to enhance their communities and prevent increased flooding and damage costs down the road.

The City of Vancouver has been an early leader in planning for sea level rise by minimizing the effects of human activities causing climate change by reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and in adapting to be more resilient to the impacts from the changing climate. In 2012, Council approved the City’s first Climate Adaptation Strategy. Within that strategy, the CFRA program was recommended as the top priority action. Over the past six years, the CFRA program has modeled a range of sea level rise and storm surge scenarios, assessed how the City might be affected by these flood hazards, and identified what options exist to adapt our coastline and minimize harmful impacts of flooding.

Learn more about the City’s actions on sea level rise here: http://vancouver.ca/sealevelrise