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What is the Vulnerability Committee?

Vulnerability Committee stands for 'Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee'. It is a national committee consisting of decision-makers and infrastructure managers from all three levels of government, together with the engineering profession and other non-government organizations. It is referred to as the Vulnerability Committee in this website.[back to top]

Why was it created?

The Vulnerability Committee was originally created to conduct an engineering assessment of the vulnerability of Canada's public infrastructure to the impacts of climate change. It facilitated the first review of national and local codes and standards for infrastructure design, operation and maintenance in light of this new information.

The mandate now includes initiatives to provide clear guidance to Canada's professional engineers and geoscientists to support the design, construction, maintenance and regulation of safe, reliable and financially sustainable public infrastructure in Canada to address the risks of a changing climate.

It will assist in the mainstreaming of climate risk assessment into existing and new infrastructure decision-making that improves its resilience to the impacts of current and future climate.

The overall goal is to ensure that professional engineers and geoscientists as well as infrastructure owners and managers always consider climate change as an integral part of planning, designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and rehabilitating civil infrastructure.

What kinds of studies have been done?

The Vulnerability Committee has focused its studies on four categories of public infrastructure: Buildings; Roads and Associated Structures; Storm water and Wastewater Systems; and Water Resources. A scoping study was completed in March 2007 to further classify the infrastructure into applicable categories, examine past and current work on climatic impacts on each infrastructure, confirm the availability of climate data and develop indicators of adaptive capacity. The scoping study produced a draft engineering protocol that was evaluated through a pilot project with the City of Portage la Prairie to assess their water supply system. Those results will, in turn, be used to conduct a Canada-wide assessment of each category. The four Canada-wide assessments will become the First National Engineering Vulnerability Assessment Report.

When will the first national engineering vulnerability assessment be completed?

The first national assessment was published in June 2008. It included the results of the seven case studies that were completed by that time. Additional case studies and an assessment of their results were undertaken between April 2009 and June 2012 . Reports on codes and standards reviews based on the 23 case studies completed to that time are available on this website.

What is the end result of the Vulnerability Committee process?

The continuing work will be used to plan additional vulnerability assessments as well as to review and where necessary, make amendments to infrastructure codes, standards and design practices and facilitate such work. The Vulnerability Committee's work will be completed once such amendments are adopted so that climate change impacts have been adequately accounted for in engineering design, operation and maintenance of physical infrastructure. There will be a continued need to monitor and if necessary, adjust standards over time as projected changes in the climate are confirmed and further vulnerability assessments are completed.

What do "mitigation" and "adaptation" mean in the Vulnerability Committee context?

Mitigation is defined as an intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks for greenhouse gases that are a driver for climatic change. This strategy is used to slow the rate of climatic change. In Canada, a primary mitigation strategy of engineers is to reduce greenhouse gases by improving energy efficiency of infrastructure and designing it for long-term sustainability.

Adaptation is the complementary strategy that deals with the anticipated consequences of a changing climate. It is crucial that engineers design infrastructure capable of adapting to new weather extremes as well as to the more gradual changes resulting from changes in climate.

What is "vulnerability" in the Vulnerability Committee context?

For the purposes of this study only, the definition of 'vulnerability is 'the shortfall in the ability of public infrastructure to absorb the negative effects, and the positive effects, of changes in the climate conditions used to design and operate infrastructure.'

Why is The Vulnerability Committee only looking at public infrastructure?

Public infrastructure is defined as that infrastructure that is owned and operated by governments. Professional engineers have a duty to serve and protect the public interest (life, health, safety, protection against economic loss and the environment). Public infrastructure is the most prevalent and widespread form of infrastructure that is planned, designed and operated on a broader scale in accordance with public policy and the public interest.

This being said, infrastructure design is governed by national and local codes and standards, which also apply to private infrastructure. Therefore the work of the Vulnerability Committee will also positively impact the design and operation of private infrastructure through improved codes, standard and design practices.

Who are the Vulnerability Committee partners?

The Vulnerability Committee partners are Engineers Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Other Federal and Provincial government departments as well as municipalities and other non-government organizations such as Canadian Standards Association, Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Ouranos are contributing to the overall effort.