Accounting for Nature

Vancouver

Accounting for Nature

A primer that directs the user on how to value the tangible and intangible services of our local nature, giving Vancouver’s natural assets a competitive advantage against traditional aging grey infrastructure. An approach that emphasizes the climate risks specific to Vancouver, and centers equity and climate resiliency.

School:

UBC

Department:

Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences

Course:

ENVR 400

Instructors:

  • Tara Ivanochko
  • Michael Lipsen

City of Vancouver:

  • Angela Danyluk

Student Team:

  • Nicole Cheng
  • Emily Suchy
  • Felicia Tsui
  • Taylor Tulissi

Strategy:

  • Climate Emergency Action Plan

Term:

Spring 2021

Summary

Currently, City of Vancouver asset management does not incorporate natural assets; they are overlooked and indirectly valued. The purpose of this project was to address this gap. Through extensive research and discussion with local leaders in the field, we created a primer on how to categorize natural assets, identify their associated ecosystem services, and value the tangible and intangible aspects of those ecosystem services. The City of Vancouver’s 2020 Climate Emergency Action Plan was used to guide the prioritization of natural assets based on their contributions to climate resilience. The ecosystem services that natural assets provide have the capacity to address climate risks in ways aging traditional infrastructure cannot, and should thus be prioritized in decision making processes.

We have identified four categories that incorporate all of Vancouver’s natural assets, both public and private: forests, waterways, foreshores, and soils. Key ecosystem services for addressing climate risks in Vancouver are mental health, education, culture, relational, and biodiversity. These services are provided not by natural assets in isolation but rather, complete functioning ecosystems.

Recognizing that access to nature and climate impacts are unequally distributed across communities within the City means that actions should be directed at those neighbourhoods most vulnerable first. This requires frameworks to be flexible enough to incorporate a decolonizing practice of learning and unlearning. Ultimately, this primer is a living document that will adapt and adjust as the City continues conducting local research on how climate risks impact marginalized communities, and how its natural assets can mitigate those risks.

We recommend that City Engineering and Sustainability Department staff together with the Parks Board further this work to create a natural assets inventory and assess baseline monetary value. By applying the prioritization framework and consulting with at-risk communities, City Council and staff can direct planning initiatives to maximize climate resiliency.