Jul 17, 2018


Co-Hosts: The Consulate General of the Netherlands,

Date: 13 July 2018

University of British Columbia, Fraser River Basin Council

Description: This two-day workshop was designed to enable local and international experts to develop policy and program options for mitigating the local impact of climate change in Metropolitan Vancouver as well as the Lower Mainland (broadly defined).

Background:  In May 2018, the flooding of BC’s Fraser River, which drains almost 250,000 km2 and flows 1,375 km (854 miles) from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Georgia, reached near-crisis proportions. Given that the Fraser River generates about $4 billion in annual GDP, a marginal elevation in seasonal risk factors would have been catastrophic for the regional economy in addition to the many water-front cities and communities (population of 2.3 million residents).

VSIR Thinking Points:

  • Contemporary views of sustainability and resilience are shaped by the complex interrelationship between human and ecological processes. On the one hand, human ingenuity can contribute to the gradual destruction of natural ecosystems or enhance a community’s responsiveness to changing environmental conditions. Alternatively, extreme environmental events (eg., floods, rain storms) can degrade or destroy critical infrastructure such as highways, energy pipelines, and electrical grids that are critical for human survival. In dynamic watershed systems like the Fraser River basin, it is imperative that the political, economic, financial, and social policies that underwrite our collective security and prosperity remain adaptive, multi-scalar, and informed by interdisciplinary thinking.
  • Metropolitan Vancouver is consistently ranked among the most livable cities in the world. However, the international reputation Vancouver enjoys as a “magnet” for global talent also generates its own second- and third-order environmental and ecological risks. Expected population growth (30,000 per year) and intensive-land use development, especially in the more affordable Lower Mainland, will make it harder to align sustainability aspirations and outcomes (eg., 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy) in the coming decades.
  • An intensification of social, economic, and ecological risk drivers in the Fraser River catchment area will challenge multi-governance agencies to become more adept at agile decision-making with less-than perfect knowledge. Operationally, there will be a premium on scaling-up distributed knowledge systems that connect experts, emergency responders, and local community leaders with military-like precision upon activation. Strategically, biophilic design principles and managerial foresight methods will have to be effectively integrated to the annual planning cycles of municipal, provincial, and First Nation authorities.     

Agenda and Speaker: