PIV du Gouvernement du Québec

Land-use and urban planning: reviewing flood-risk areas regulation

In the current climate change context, where historical flood episodes can no longer serve as a unique reference for planning a future in which extreme events are expected to occur with greater frequency and intensity, immediate action to enhance population resiliency matters.

What tools and practices should be used to create less vulnerable living environments? In the fields of land and urban planning and building and infrastructure design, how can we ensure that our choices will meet the needs of the day and the future, given that knowledge is constantly evolving?

This plenary session sought to reflect on how land planning and community development can be achieved in an integrated way, while still meeting the public affairs participation expectations of the citizenry and taking account of future climate forecasts.




Please note that some references quoted on this page may only be available in French.


Government of Québec Initiatives

  • 2013-2020 Government Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation
    Launched in 2012, the 2013-2020 Government Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation seeks to showcase actions that are needed to strengthen the resiliency of Québec society to climate change. Land development and risk management together account for one of its eight strategic directions, which comes with two specific attached objectives: 1) Take climate change adaptation into account in land-use and urban planning decisions, and 2) Reduce risks and limit the consequences of disasters that stem from climate change.
  • 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan [PDF]
    The 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan enables the implementation of many actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen the resiliency of Québec society to the impacts of climate change. Three of the thirty Action Plan priorities are related to land development in the context of adaptation to climate change: 1) Induce sustainable land development in a climate change perspective; 2) Support municipality and community GHG emission reduction, adaptation to climate change and sustainable land development initiatives; and 3) Foster risk management that minimizes the vulnerability of communities.
  • L’urbanisme durable : enjeux, pratique et outils d’intervention (Sustainable Urban Planning: Issues, Practices and Tools for Action). Available in French only. Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire, 2012 [PDF]
    This guide to good land planning and sustainable development practices deals more specifically with challenges, practices and available sustainable urban planning tools. This means, on the one hand, consolidating urban environments and, on the other, fostering the emergence of urban complexes that comply with generally recognized principles of viable communities and/or smart growth.
  • Bâtiment durable : guide de bonnes pratiques sur la planification territoriale et le développement durable (Sustainable Building: A Guide to Good Practices for Land Planning and Sustainable Development). Available in French only. Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire, 2010 [PDF]
    This guide  adopts a sustainable development perspective to regarding climate change adaptation within the building industry, focusing on resource consumption (materials, water, energy, etc.), and by considering all direct and indirect costs.
  • La biodiversité et l’urbanisation : guide de bonnes pratiques sur la planification territoriale et le développement durable (Biodiversity and Urban Planning). Available in French only. Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire, 2010 [PDF]
    This publication is a tool for spurring municipalities to reflect on protecting biodiversity in an urban planning context by considering the health benefits that ecosystems provide to the population and by adopting a heritage-based approach.
  • L’aménagement et l’écomobilité : guide de bonnes pratiques sur la planification territoriale et le développement durable (Development and Ecomobility: A Guide to Good Practices for Land Planning and Sustainable Development). Available in French only. Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire, 2011 [PDF]
    This report deals with the need for an environment that fosters ecomobility by concentrating on land development, the goal being to utilize land development and urban planning to give birth to communities in which various modes of transportation can be used, thus ensuring mobility to all, being or not car drivers.


Experience within Québec

  • Comment favoriser les infrastructures naturelles dans le Grand Montréal ? Une analyse des opportunités et contraintes relatives à leur développement (How to Foster Natural Infrastructures in Greater Montréal: An Analysis of Development Opportunities and Constraints). Institut des sciences de la forêt tempérée (Université du Québec en Outaouais), Centre de la science de la biodiversité du Québec and Fondation David-Suzuki, 2017. Available in French only.
    On June 16 and 17, 2016, a summit was held for individual citizens, environmentalists, land managers, and scientists and elected officials, to take stock of natural infrastructure development solutions and constraints in the Greater Montréal Area. Four recommendations that addressed the need for broader understanding and changes to regional environmental governance emerged from the discussions.
  • Objectifs écoquartiers : principes et balises pour guider les décideurs et les promoteurs (Econeighbourhood Goals: Principles and Markers for Decision Makers and Promoters). Vivre en ville, 2014. Available in French only.
    In this guide, Vivre en ville proposes 33 detailed principles for imagining, planning and designing econeighbourhoods. In the view of Vivre en ville, econeighbourhoods are quintessential collective projects and, as such, need to rely on a clear and common vision of both the neighbourhood and its role in the urban area.
  • L’évaluation économique des biens et services écosystémiques dans un contexte de changements climatiques (The Economic Evaluation of Ecosystem Goods and Services in a Climate Change Context). Ouranos, 2013. Available in French only.
    The purpose of this guidebook is to ensure maximum homogeneity and standardization in the use of tools in Québec that measure the economic value of ecosystems in a climate change context, referring to the benefits that human society receives from the natural environment.
  • Répert’EAU,  Available in French only.
    Répert’eau is intended to be a forum for disseminating information on water issues and municipal water management powers. Several land development projects are addressed here.


Experience in other parts of Canada

  • Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change in Canada. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, 2011 [PDF].
    In 2011, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy published this report on the cost of climate change in Canada. The experts sitting on the Round Table at that time evaluated the cost of climate change attributable to flooding at between one and eight billion dollars annually by 2050 in Canada.
  • Urban Design in the Time of Climate Change: Making a Friend of Floods, The Globe and Mail, 2017.
    What is the best way to address the risk of flooding in urban areas? This article focusses on an approach to city planning that leaves space for major high-water events, rather than relying on infrastructure such as levees. The Don River development project in downtown Toronto is used for illustrative purposes. That project consisted of developing an immense park at the mouth of the river that can sustain occasional flooding.
  • When the Big Storms Hit: The Role of Wetlands to Limit Urban and Rural Flood Damage, Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo, 2017. [PDF]
    In areas where wetlands are maintained, the economic impact from flooding may drop by nearly 40%, according to this study from the University of Waterloo Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation that is largely based on Ontario and Alberta insurance claim data.


International Experience

  • 2016 Resilient Cities Summit: Solutions for Sustainable Land Use [PDF]
    In December 2016, the National League of Cities (NLC), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Urban Land Institute (ULI) hosted the second Resilient Cities Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In order to improve community resiliency, the summit focussed on the following topics: Information sharing; major joint benefits of investments for growing resiliency and improving land planning; good call-for-proposal practices; the importance for elected officials of efficiently communicating the stakes related to resiliency; and leaving space for creativity and experimenting.
  • Rebuild by Design, 2015
    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the US government launched the Rebuild by Design call for projects in order to support reconstruction efforts in affected communities, with a view to strengthening their long-term resiliency. Under the leadership of Henk Ovink, the Rebuild by Design team supported a number of projects in the New York City area.
  • Rebuilding with Resilience: Lessons from the Rebuild by Design Competition after Hurricane Sandy, Georgetown Climate Center, 2016.
    This assessment of Rebuild by Design projects by academics made recommendations about call for project design and management and on how the financial, legal and informational aspects of these projects were handled.
  • Returns on Resilience – The Business Case, Urban Land Institute, Center for Sustainability, 2015. [PDF]
    This report by the Urban Land Institute advises real estate investment project managers on how to achieve optimal profitability in the context of climate change. The report emphasizes that projects that can demonstrate their resiliency have more market success and take advantage of better financing terms and lower insurance premiums.
  • Shelters from the Storm: Preparing Cities for a Changing Climate… Before It’s too Late, The Globe and Mail.
    The author of this article explores innovative engineering solutions and behavioural changes that could improve how Canadians adapt to the impact of climate change (rising seas, severe high water and major flooding). Examples drawn from experience in the Netherlands and New York are also presented.