Climate change is affecting the Biosphere region and communities need to be ready! Coastal Georgian Bay is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and we are already experiencing changes in water quality and more extreme weather causing recent flooding, wind damage, and high water levels. In 2018 the Parry Sound 33 wildfire burned 12,000 hectares from July to October and in 2019 Muskoka recorded historic flooding. Climate change also affects the resilience of Indigenous cultural practices and land-based livelihoods. We need to adapt to these changes and ensure that our communities are prepared. The Georgian Bay Biosphere (GBB) is partnering with local communities to do just that!

Climate change ‘adaptation’ refers to actions that we can take to reduce the impacts of climate change and to cope with the changes that happen. These can be actions like installing air conditioning to prepare for extreme heat, moving waterfront structures away from the shoreline to prevent flooding from high water levels, or keeping an emergency kit in your car in the event of an evacuation. 

In August, 2021 the GBB joined Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) Canada’s Advancing Adaptation training program in partnership with Shawanaga First Nation (SFN) and the Town of Parry Sound (TOPS). As we work together through this program, we are facilitating a conversation about climate change adaptation with the area’s First Nations and Municipalities. GBB, SFN, and TOPS’ participation in this program will increase our region’s resilience to climate change and create a region-wide Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

GBB, SFN, and TOPS have joined the first two cohorts of the program: Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning. The program uses a Train-the-Trainer model, where staff receive training to then facilitate workshops and train others in the region. 

This model works perfectly with the ICECAP (Integrated Community Energy and Climate Action Plans) partnership. As ICECAP partners, GBB, SFN, and TOPS staff are receiving this climate change adaptation training to bring knowledge to the regional partnership so that all members can benefit. “This really is an excellent example of the strength of the ICECAP partnership,” says Isabelle Moy, the Biosphere’s Climate Change and Sustainability Program Coordinator, “Three partners are able to work together on an initiative like this, learn from it, gather resources, and then share with the entire group. The whole partnership reaps the benefits and we are able to learn about and plan for climate adaptation together.” 

The rest of this partner profile will focus on the GBB’s work with the Town of Parry Sound.

Since August, the Town has worked through the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment portion of the program and brought together stakeholders from across the region to pool their expertise. At the first workshop in November there were discussions around the impacts of climate change that are already being seen and those that are expected to occur in the future. These workshops range from describing climate impacts, understanding the Biosphere Region’s particular sensitivities and ability to adapt to climate change, and most recently participants looked at the overall risks from climate change that the region faces. There are many stakeholders and partners involved including Town staff, representatives from other municipalities, local First Nations, federal and provincial parks, community organizations, the Health Unit, community members, and industry representatives.

Forrest Pengra, the Town’s Manager of Infrastructure and Technology and a co-chair of the ICECAP partnership is participating in the ICLEI training alongside the GBB and SFN. He underscores the importance of this work, “The Advancing Adaptation Program offered by ICLEI is pivotal in the establishment of conversation around adaptation within the Town and greater region,” Forrest says, “Without this opportunity, building an adaptation plan and corresponding capacity building, let alone having discussion on the topic would be limited.  Developing capacity and the associated knowledge transfer is imperative to move the adaptation bar forward.  On our own, I’m not sure the Town would have been able to undertake such important work.  Given that the climate is already changing, planning around adaptation is critical.”

The Town of Parry Sound will continue this work in partnership with the GBB in May, when they enter the Adaptation Planning cohort which is expected to conclude in December of this year. By the end of the program TOPS, SFN, and GBB will be able to present a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the region.
Learn more about the ICECAP partnership here, read more about ICLEI Canada’s Advancing Adaptation Project, and follow the Town of Parry Sound on social media: @townofparrysound.

GBB staff that are fully vaccinated meet outside their new office to plan for the first Climate Action Group session. Left to right: David Bywater, Isabelle Moy, Delaina Arnold, and Becky Pollock. Credit: Kyla Judge
Skating on Georgian Bay
Parry Sound Town Docks and Trestle Bridge overlooking Wasauksing First Nation and the Sound of Parry Sound.