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Daniel Henstra, Waterloo Climate Institute member, professor in the Department of Political Science and the co-lead of Waterloo’s Climate Risk Research Group will give a keynote address at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference on August 14 to 17. He will speak about building resilience for a future of climate change in his talk “Adapting to Climate Change: Local Government Tools to Build Climate Resilience.”

With so much focus on international bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is easy to forget it is municipalities that are on the ground and incorporating a future of climate change into their policies.

It can be a real challenge for municipalities. They must, by necessity, prioritize certain things over others. So much of the focus is on impacts they are seeing now, like for storm water sewers systems, roads and bridges. That is all important. But there are so many other programs that municipalities run that they should also examine through this lens of climate resilience.

Daniel Henstra

Part of Henstra’s message is that municipalities need to prioritize what he calls “adaptation investments,” and to think strategically even about things like the engineering and landscaping of recreational facilities.

He gives the example of a soccer pitch, which could be constructed with surrounding berms so that one day if needed, it could act as a holding pond for excess rainfall or drainage from the surrounding neighbourhood.

In this sense, Henstra sees building climate resilience as not just a matter of infrastructure like sewers and retaining walls, but also of social and cultural venues and of public services more generally. It is an approach that assumes climate change adaptation needs to be foregrounded in most policy decisions going forward.

“One area where municipalities have strengths is that they control some of the most important levers for making communities more resilient,” he says. “They control planning and development, where development is going to happen, the density of development. And that’s going to be crucial for making sure we are ready for a warmer and wetter world.”

Learn more about Daniel Henstra's work and read the full story on Waterloo News.

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