On the coast of Lake Ontario, the city of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada is being recognized for its ongoing climate crisis adaptation efforts.
Most recently, on April 17, 2023, the City received a Climate Action Award from the Water Environment Association of Ontario.
Presented in partnership with the Ontario Water Works Association, the award recognizes and acknowledges innovations in infrastructure that adapt to climate change (resilient infrastructure) or that reduce climate impacts by significantly decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation).
The news of the award came on the heels of a recent University of Ottawa research paper which ranked the city’s Climate Adaptation Plan third of about 15 plans from across the province evaluated for comprehensiveness.
St. Catharines finished ahead of nearby communities like Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener, among others.
“These honours underscore the work the City and community is undertaking to prevent the worst of climate change,” said Anthony Martuccio, the City’s Director of Engineering, Facilities and Environmental Services.
“The work we’ve been doing has been focused around ensuring that the City and our infrastructure remain protected and safe in the face of changing weather patterns and climactic events,” he added.
The Climate Action Award was presented under the resilient infrastructure stream for the work the City has completed for integrating climate change into asset management planning.
This pilot project was funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to focus on water and wastewater assets.
“We have incorporated a climate lens into asset management decision making by integrating future climate risk onto the water and wastewater assets,” said Samantha Downing, the City’s Manager of Infrastructure Assets.
“The outcome of the project has allowed the City to directly apply adaptation strategies to manage climate risk for two asset classes, water and wastewater assets and we look forward to applying this methodology and framework to all other City asset classes in the future,” she continued.
The Climate Adaption Plan, approved by Council in 2021, was the result of extensive research and collaboration by the Niagara Adapts team and the participating municipalities.
Jessica Blythe, Associate Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, who led the Niagara Adapts research team and partnership, says the recognition “provides evidence that our university-community partnership contributed to an excellent adaptation plan.”
The partnership and community engagement were not only key to help inform the City’s plan, but also getting the community at large to recognize the current adaptation practice they personally do when severe weather impacts their home, and where the City could offer further assistance.
“It’s about getting everyone thinking about the future, both near and long term, of how this plan, program, procedure or others might be affected by a changing climate,” said Olivia Groff, the City’s Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator.
Following its approval, the City has implemented several initiatives in the plan, including the following:
- A Green Reserve Fund has been created to help fund energy related projects for City facilities;
- The City completed a Lake Ontario Shoreline Flooding and Hazard Mapping project to help ensure amenities at the beaches and waterfront parks are above revised high lakes levels;
- Homeowner education has been created to increase awareness of storm water best management practices and flooding protection; and
- Continuation of the annual rain barrel sale and tree giveaway.
The Climate Adaptation Plan initiatives build on previous City mitigation efforts, including electric vehicle fleet replacements, the LED-streetlight conversion project, City facility retrofits to reduce energy consumption and the commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of the Cities Race to Zero campaign.
These types of initiatives also earned the City of St. Catharines a top score on climate action from CDP, an international environmental impact non-profit, and a spot on it’s prestigious 2022 A List.
Photos courtesy of the City of St. Catharines.