IJC Boards Take Steps to Prepare for Climate Change
Recent extreme weather events around the world and in the transboundary region have raised awareness of the need to be prepared for a changing climate and the complications it brings. Recent reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an intergovernmental body of the United Nations responsible for advancing knowledge on human-induced climate change, has highlighted these concerns. The IJC follows these developments and continually prepares for a changing climate through existing tools and by tracking the science, including IPCC reporting. Several of the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) boards from east, on the St. Croix River, to west, on Osoyoos Lake, are working to understand how climate change will impact their responsibilities, according to a new Climate Change Guidance Framework (CCGF) Highlights Report issued by the IJC.
Since 2017, when the CCGF was first developed as a methodology for applying climate adaptation strategies to planning activities, the International St. Croix River Watershed Board completed the process outlined in the framework: organize, analyze, act, update. Serving as the pilot project for the CCGF, the St. Croix board determined that anticipated changes to precipitation and snowmelt will likely result in more frequent low water flows, which may require updates to existing water management strategies. The International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control is currently working on a climate study to develop hydrological computer models to simulate what flow conditions could be with continued changes associated with climate change. This study will enable the Osoyoos Lake Board to apply the CCGF process to the Osoyoos basin in coming years. The Accredited Officers of the St. Mary and Milk Rivers plan on using CCGF methods as part of their work to understand how climate change may require administrative and structural changes to provide nations better access to apportionments of those rivers between Canada and the United States.
Meanwhile, the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Board is applying the CCGF to study a range of flooding risks from climate change in that region by developing models that identify a range of potential extreme flood conditions and measure how different solutions may function under varying flood levels. Similarly, the CCGF’s methodology is being used by the Great Lakes Adaptive Management Committee as members conduct an expedited review of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Regulation Plan 2014 to determine how it would perform under a variety of future conditions.
The IJC expects its boards will apply the CCGF’s methods over the coming years as they plan for and encounter frequent and/or intense impacts of climate change. Plans are already being laid out for the implementation of the framework in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed.
The IJC developed the CCGF through its International Watersheds Initiative and has been leading efforts to prepare for the extreme weather events that climate change may bring to the transboundary region. The IJC’s responsibilities are unique in each watershed, and in light of a changing climate, new issues relating to water quality, flows and apportionment will arise; the 2021 CCGF highlights report provides an overview of IJC board recent work on climate change. The report can be read at the following link: https://www.ijc.org/en/climate-change-guidance-framework-highlights-report-2021
The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the governments of Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over use of the waters shared by the two countries.
For additional information, contact:
Jeff Kart, US Section Jeff.Kart@ijc.org 989-372-1229
Sarah Lobrichon, Canadian Section Sarah.Lobrichon@ijc.org 613-992-5368