Lessons Learned from Phases 1 and 2

This lessons learned section is based on the experiences of the Communities Adapting to Climate Change (CACCI) Phase 1 and 2 community projects. It summarizes some of the key pointers provided by local coordinators and project community members subsequent to their projects. Important reflections from CBT staff and the CBT CACCI Advisory Committee are also incorporated.

The lessons learned are primarily intended for future local coordinators and project communities. They are presented in two major sections – general lessons learned and specific lessons relating to each step in the CACCI six-step planning process. The six-step planning process is improved on an ongoing basis based on these lessons.

General Lessons

  • Use this online Adaptation Resource Kit – it contains a multitude of great resources.
  • Take advantage of CBT’s Technical Support Team support and coaching. CBT’s experts can give a lot of excellent background and guidance to your process – talk to them.
  • Take the time to connect with the other communities engaging in adaptation planning – they will often have important tips and materials for you. Consider holding joint workshops throughout the process on issues that relate to more than one community.
  • Remember that every community is different and will take a different approach to adaptation planning.
  • Identify desired outcomes at the beginning of the process (a plan, learning etc.) and check back periodically to see if you are achieving them.
  • Consider how adaptation planning can be integrated into initiatives that your community is already undertaking i.e. Water Smart, Carbon Neutral Kootenays – this facilitates implementation.
  • Think carefully about whether your community wants to undertake the full six-step planning process, the one-day rapid action-planning workshop or some other planning approach. There is no right way to do adaptation planning.

Get Started

  • Review the six-step planning process and the Adaptation Discovery Tool (ADT) provided in this Resource Kit.
  • Read the Preparing for Climate Change Guidebook prepared by the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group. 
  • Review the climate change adaptation plans of the Phase 1 and 2 communities. Learn about their processes. Check into other communities that have undertaken adaptation planning, such as the City of Keene.
  • Ensure your steering committee is a representative cross-section of key community stakeholders who want to be part of the project, can provide advice, and can help communicate the project to other members of the community. These stakeholders can also play a key role in implementation.
  • Develop a strategy for dealing with turnover in steering committee members and local government staff.
  • Spend some time to understand and differentiate between greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation planning. Opportunities exist for synergies across adaptation and mitigation, but everyone needs to understand the difference.
  • Look for opportunities to integrate climate change adaptation planning into other local government initiatives, such as an OCP process.
  • Ensure staff and community “buy-in” to increase the likelihood that actions are appropriate and supported therefore increasing their chances of implementation.
  • Adapt your approach to the community members engaged. Every community will have a differing level of volunteer involvement. Provide opportunities for involvement, but ensure you have realistic expectations regarding the amount of time volunteers will have available.
  • Consider the possibility of hiring a local assistant to help out at workshops and undertake other tasks to take some of the burden off the volunteers and free the coordinator from focusing on logistical tasks.
  • Consult and inform the community at important steps of the process, but ensure that you involve them at an appropriate level. Some issues may be too technical and more appropriately addressed by staff or experts.
  • Engage people in multiple ways at multiple points in the process. Bring interested stakeholders together in a workshop at the beginning of the process. Use the radio, newspaper and on-line methods to inform people and get their input.
  • Involve the mayor and councillors in public events from the outset as it shows their commitment to the project and allows community members to interact directly with elected officials.
  • Set realistic expectations for the process. Educating the community about climate change is a desirable goal, but may not be the primary goal if you want to develop an adaptation plan. Be realistic about what can be done within the time and funding constraints.
  • A huge amount of information will be generated through the process. It is important to develop solid information management processes at the beginning in order to facilitate participant review and understanding of the information later.
  • Climate change adaptation planning is both challenging and rewarding and there will be moments of uncertainty during the process. There is no perfect adaptation plan. The key to moving forward is starting the dialogue in your community.

Learn about the Science

  • The Climate Science 101 video is a great starting point to learn about the science.
  • CBT’s Starting the Dialogue provides a more detailed overview of the climate science and climate change projections and is important reading. Additional resources can be consulted as needed including the Technical Support Team (TST), who are available to help you understand the science.
  • Look for regional level information at Plan2Adapt. However if you cannot find the community specific information you are seeking, do not let it delay your process. Detailed information regarding expected impacts in specific communities is not often available.
  • The most successful workshops are those that combine concise delivery of subject matter with interactive components designed to engage participants. Community members are generally receptive to activities that enable them to share information and provide input or guidance.
  • Communicate clearly to the community what the science can and can’t provide in addressing local questions around impacts. Local expectations around what science can tell us about climate impacts are often beyond what is feasible within the parameters of the project and the current science. Climate projections show what changes might occur with respect to temperature and precipitation on an annual and seasonal basis. The TST is a great resource for helping to understand and communicate the limitations of the science.
  • Use scenarios and real-life examples of climate impacts in other communities. Telling people that it might, on average, be 2-3 degrees C warmer in 40 years is abstract and the implications unclear. There remains the question of “Well, what does that mean for our water, forests, ecosystems, gardens, buildings, etc.?” Developing scenarios based on more extreme manifestations of past climate and asking "what if" questions is helpful, as is looking to communities that currently have the kind of climate being projected to see what kind of stresses they already face.
  • Engage residents by asking what changes they are observing that might be related to climate change. This: 1) provides an opportunity for residents to share and perhaps validate with others in the community what they are observing, 2) “opens” the process and engages residents in the dialogue, 3) reinforces that climate impacts are not being imagined if presentations from experts validates these observations, 4) provides an informal snapshot of what is important to residents and could inform subsequent research and data gathering.
  • Having more than one presentation of the climate science and impacts is useful. Hearing the data and analysis presented several times in different venues increases people’s understanding and comfort level with the subject matter.
  • In every community there are people who do not believe climate change is occurring. You will not change their views by debating with them. Remind everyone of the focus of the project, which is to be a resilient community to change. Information is available regarding the scientific consensus on climate change Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.
  • Engage the TST experts to communicate climate science. Climate analysis and modeling are complex. A basic understanding of how the models work, how the outputs are generated, and the strengths and limitations of current climate modeling science is helpful. Engage the climate science experts to assist with communication of the science so that it is conveyed correctly and clearly.
  • Remember that projecting the future is never completely accurate. Future climatic changes and the impacts associated with those changes will vary drastically among different ecosystems across BC. Communities should plan for alternative future scenarios, capitalizing on opportunities while increasing the adaptive capacity and reducing the vulnerability of infrastructure and livelihoods to climatic impacts.

Identify Priorities in Your Community

  • Start broad and do a community-wide scan of potential impacts at the beginning. Then hone down on your focus. The Climate Change Adaptation Discovery Tool (ADT) available in this Resource Kit is a great place to start in identifying priority impacts.
  • Engaging a broad group of local stakeholders in a general workshop at the start of the process can facilitate the development of a “first-cut” list of priority issues.
  • Use all mediums available to engage the public, including radio, on-line surveys, mail-out surveys, interviews with experts, local cable channels and the local newspaper.
  • Remember that successful workshops are generally those that combine the delivery of subject matter and the opportunity for participants to share their ideas and views.
  • Keep the elected officials involved throughout the process to demonstrate continued commitment and strengthen the sense of community.
  • Visual displays of future scenarios through GIS or other means can be very helpful in understanding and prioritizing potential impacts. However data gathering requires considerable time and multiple data sources in order to produce a credible depth of GIS mapping. Collaboration with the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) was very useful for the City of Kimberley in producing computer visualizations for local stakeholders to consider.
  • Consider long and short-term priorities and ensure that the impacts selected are not just those in vogue (i.e. fires) at the expense of something important but less popular (i.e. drought).
  • Look at opportunities in addition to potential risks.
  • Consider whether provincial or federal agencies have jurisdiction over the issue or are already addressing the issue. For example, the province already addresses some aspects of wildfire protection. This should be noted in the action plan and in some cases the action should be to collaborate with the appropriate agency.
  • Recognize that there are many synergies between primary and secondary impacts in the in the natural environment, built environment and socio-economic environment. It is challenging to divide the impacts into neat packages. Stepping back to take a holistic view that recognizes the connections is helpful.

Assess Vulnerability and Risk

  • Existing vulnerability and risk assessment templates for climate adaptation planning are detailed and complex. This may not be the best fit for a community process involving volunteer stakeholders. Simplify the templates and modify the process if necessary to better accommodate the participants, but avoid oversimplification. It is important that the participants understand the vulnerability and risk vocabulary to some extent.
  • Pre-work by the coordinator, including consultation with experts, preparation of an assessment template and research, is important in the vulnerability and risk assessment process.
  • Consider having the experts/coordinator fill in vulnerability and risk tables in advance of stakeholders workshops, based on their research and preliminary findings. Workshops can then be held to get feedback on or ground truth these assessments.
  • Be realistic about the data you will be able to collect regarding vulnerability and risk. Due to time and budget constraints, reviewing data such as historical weather records, climate trends, insurance company records on fire and flood etc. in detail will likely be impossible and much of the data will be qualitative based on input from TST members, local government staff and council, steering committees and community members.
  • Perspectives on vulnerability and risk will depend upon who is at the table during the discussions. It’s important to ensure a wide range of views and expertise are represented during the vulnerability and risk assessments and to have a means of ensuring the that loudest voices do not win out when there is a divergence (i.e. flagging the issue for further analysis). Consider inviting appropriate experts to participate in the vulnerability and risk assessment process.
  • It is important to use consistent templates for all impacts being assessed to facilitate further analysis.
  • Review the results of the vulnerability and risk assessment carefully (perhaps with the help of an expert) to ensure that they do not favour one type of risk over another.

Develop Adaptation Strategies and Actions

  • The ultimate success of a climate adaptation plan is dependent on the willingness of the community to implement and act upon the recommendations. Thus the actions are a central part of the adaptation process.
  • Review action plans from other communities in advance of developing actions. The Adaptation Discovery Tool (ADT) available in this Resource Kit is a great source for a list of the actions adopted in other communities.
  • Ensure actions are considered at various levels - Local government will be the lead on many adaptation actions because the actions fall under its responsibility. This can result in gaps around adaptation opportunities that rely on individuals or organizations outside of local government because they do not have the necessary information, resources or buy-in. Try to ensure that these kinds of actions are considered and the appropriate individuals or organizations are involved.
  • Ensure actions are as detailed and specific as possible. It is helpful to include targets, urgency, priority, responsibility (who is going to implement), the process of implementation (including funding sources), and current status.

Implement and Monitor Plan

  • It is important to view your adaptation plan as not just a plan, but the foundation for on-going climate adaptation in the community.
  • All community plans should be revised at regular intervals (i.e. every five years).
  • Develop an action checklist and review the implementation status of the actions annually to report on implementation to residents.