Vancouver developed a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy and changed bylaws to ensure that new buildings are elevated to protect against floods and future sea level rise.

In 2012, Vancouver City Council adopted a comprehensive Climate Change Adaptation Strategy due to an increased focus on the city’s vulnerable position. This strategy also led Vancouver to change its building bylaws, so that new buildings in flood-prone areas must be built to elevations that account for sea level rise projections. Major city projects near the coast, such as an initiative to area-plan a large industrial site, now prioritize adaptation to sea level rise.

11.8 square kilometers of land should avoid flooding due to the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Cities100 – 2015

As part of the strategy, a Coastal Flood Risk Assessment (CFRA) has been developed, which will result in area-specific adaptation responses to sea level rise and the associated increase in flood risk. As the CFRA requires information such as the depth of potential flooding under various sea level rise scenarios, as well as information about the assets and people that are vulnerable to flooding, decision-makers are able to comprehend the consequences of flooding in their communities and compare response options. The goals for these responses are maximizing actions that will benefit the community regardless of the degree of sea level rise, prioritizing vulnerable populations, and minimizing flood risk.

The challenge

Vancouver is ranked among the 20 most vulnerable cities in the world to sea level rise, while being the largest port in Canada. Coastal flooding would cause serious economic implications for the city. Canada does not have insurance mechanisms for residential flooding or a national flood hazard program. With the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the city plans to ensure that Vancouver remains livable and resilient in the face of climate change and sea level rise.


Economic Climate-related disaster response costs, including damage to buildings, direct business impacts, city infrastructure costs, and emergency response costs, would be widespread and significant if no adaptation action was taken.

Environmental The debris created by a 500-year storm would fill over 4,500 trucks, causing a significant waste concern in the city.

Social Under a scenario in which sea level rises one meter in connection with a 500-year storm, the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is estimated to avoid 800 buildings damaged and 14,000 residents seeking shelter.

About Vancouver

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in Canada. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city. Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life, and the Economist Intelligence Unit acknowledged it as the first city ranked among the top-ten of the world’s most well-living cities for five consecutive years. While forestry remains its largest industry, Vancouver is well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, making tourism its second-largest industry.

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