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REPORT: British Columbia Climate Displacement Issue Mapping Study

Updated: May 15, 2022

With the support of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and in partnership with the University of Victoria Centre for Global Studies (CFGS), CDPI researcher and PhD candidate Nicole Bates-Eamer undertook a first-of-its-kind research to evaluate BC's readiness to address climate change displacement.


Despite heightened awareness about the issue—due in part to media coverage of more frequent climate-related extreme weather events, sea level rise and ice melt, for example—BC, like many jurisdictions, has yet to mobilize stakeholders in preparation.


The report identifies relevant organizations, frameworks, policies and programs that can lay the groundwork in building multi-level government, business and civil society networks and capacity for addressing climate change displacement in BC. It also highlights the two main knowledge gaps: the need for data on past and existing displacements and mobilities to and within the province, and the need for awareness of risks and hazards at the community level.


he report identifies five priorities for action, and potential research questions to help inform future policymaking:


1. Internal mobilities (movement of people in BC): we need to better understand the links between specific risks (wildfire, drought, and flooding for example) and mobility around the province including temporary or longer-term displacements, seasonal or cyclical movement, migration; and managed retreat. Sample research question: Which climate risks are most likely to create new instances of displacement within BC in the future?


2. Displacement in Indigenous communities: Indigenous-led research (ideally) to better understand the impacts of climate risks on Indigenous communities which are disproportionately affected by disasters, in part because their communities tend to be more remote and far from emergency responders. Sample question: How do slow- and sudden-onset events complicate the urbanization and movement off-reserve that challenge First Nations governments?


3. Managed retreat and planned relocations: we need to advance our understanding of adaptation options, including planned relocations. In the contexts of floods and sea-level rise, relocation is one approach of four (protect, avoid, retreat, and accommodate) for building resilience in communities. Sample question: What are the fiscal risks within the province, to both the public and private sector, that the need for managed retreat might pose?


4. Equity: equity in adaptation planning recognizes some communities, populations and individuals require more services and more resources to achieve equal outcomes. Sample question: What can BC learn from jurisdictions that have successfully incorporated equity concerns into climate adaptation and emergency management planning?


5. Multi-level governance and resources: we need to target interventions at the scale with the most transformative potential, and align resources to match the scale of those interventions. Sample question: How do we facilitate broad conversations across diverse actors and levels of governments/organizations so that responsibility, roles, and actions are clearly articulated?


The Climate Displacement Planning Initiative will use this report to help develop research, guides, tools, and communities of practice to help protect those most at risk moving within and to Canada.


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