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Dec 2017 | Green & Prospering Communities

ASSET MANAGEMENT & CLIMATE CHANGE: THE CASE FOR INTEGRATION
STEFANIE FISHER, PSD RESEARCH

With the increased occurrence of severe weather events, it has necessitated municipalities to adapt their infrastructure planning to consider more resilient and adaptive activities for their assets. The parallels between asset management practices and climate change planning are evident. Several communities within Canada are taking steps to integrate their asset management and climate change practices, bringing more reliable forecasting for long-term infrastructure planning.

Infrastructure is often the first (and in many cases the most) impacted by severe weather, natural disasters, and all other climatic events. There are ways that municipalities can integrate climate change adaptation strategies into their asset management practices, mainly through risk assessments, lifecycle management projects, and levels of service. Risk assessments are critical to determining the vulnerability of assets, assisting in planning for future lifecycle events. When developing and/or conducting risk assessments, several steps can be taken to integrate climate change planning. For example, a risk management framework could be developed that includes a climate change risk assessment. Or, if a municipality is looking to implement a longer-term strategy, each asset’s vulnerability could be evaluated based on all risks (i.e. climate/environmental, routine use, etc.), and an asset renewal strategy could be developed based on these factors.

For lifecycle activity frameworks, municipalities could implement a cost analysis for their investment decision-making processes, taking into account the change in lifecycle events based on climate change/environmental factors. Finally, municipalities could look at how climate change vulnerabilities will affect the ability to continue with current or desired levels of service. As an example, a municipality could perform an assessment of the financial impact that climate change will have on upholding a certain level of service. The assessment could also look at how climatic events will affect the ability for certain assets and services to be used by citizens. If municipalities are able to integrate climate change planning into the asset management practices explained above, the impact from climatic events would be lessened, assisting in maintaining long-term infrastructure renewal goals.       

The Government of Canada understands the importance of both climate change planning and asset management, having recently made several grants available that focus on climate change and the integration of asset management and climate change planning. The majority of the federal funding has been made available through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and their Climate and Asset Management Network (CAMN), as well as the Municipalities for Climate Change Innovation Program (MCIP). In addition, FCM has made funding available specifically for asset management planning through the Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP). Several municipalities have received funding from both the MAMP and MCIP grants, allowing for simultaneous work to be completed towards both their asset management and climate change planning goals. This showcases the commitment by many Canadian communities towards climate change and asset management.    

Figure 1: Allocation of MAMP & MCIP Funding by Activity

PSD conducted an analysis of the MCIP and MAMP recipients, and grouped the projects together based on the type of activity being funded. Figure 1 demonstrates a breakdown of the various categories of projects. The type of project most funded were ones focused on producing asset management plans, policies, strategies, and/or inventories. Data collection and reporting projects were the second most commonly funded type of project, followed by feasibility studies, and climate change adaptation and resilience strategies.

Those participating in Phase II of CAMN will conduct one of three project types: levels of service, risk assessment, or lifecycle. As was previously discussed, these are integral ways that municipalities are able to link their asset management and climate change adaption practices, and make more informed decisions regarding their assets. With the completion of these projects, there will be tangible resources and best practices available for other municipalities who are looking to conduct similar projects.

The City of Kenora, located in Northwestern Ontario, is an example of a community undertaking both asset management and climate change adaptation planning. In order to align with Ontario asset management requirements, Kenora has been building out its capabilities, and are now extending this to include climate change strategies. As a part of the FCM CAMN program, they are working with PSD to develop risk assessment frameworks that incorporate climate change considerations, helping to better prepare their assets for the increased pressures of inclement weather.                                                        

Communities are beginning to see continuous effects from climate change on their infrastructure, and in order to be proactive and mitigate these effects, municipalities must take advantage of the funding available. The integration of asset management and climate change adaption practices will go a long way in ensuring that already aging infrastructure is capable of withstanding climatic events – or in the case of asset failure, there are means available for repair or replacement. This key form of integration will assist in better long-term strategic planning, ensuring longevity in a municipality’s assets.    

 

STEFANIE FISHER, MA received her honour’s bachelor’s degree from King’s University College at Western University in Political Science and her master’s degree from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, where she specialized in intelligence and national security. Previously, Stefanie has worked as a research assistant, contributing to several different projects, including one on the Futures of Terrorism. In addition, as a part of her master’s research she looked at municipal critical infrastructure and the different regional infrastructure funding programs such as the Ontario Gas Tax Fund.