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Decoding Canada’s Climate Innovation Program

March 20, 2017

By Lourette Swanepoel

Six things to consider before you apply for Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program funding

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) recently announced the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program. Through this program, FCM will support communities in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation towards building community resilience.

Having worked with communities for more than 15 years, I have spent a lot of time “finding money” for my local government clients—especially for the strategic, long-term priorities they know they ought to do, but never get to because of more imminent, short-term must do’s. Through the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program, communities now have the chance to focus on some key priorities on their list to help strengthen their long-term community resilience in the face of the changing climate. Before you apply for this funding, here are few things to consider:

Do something meaningful

Our communities are so overwhelmed with current pressing needs that there is limited room on our municipal agendas (and budgets) to take a long-range view and think strategically about how to ensure long-term resiliency and sustainability. This funding is crucial to help catalyze this change in your community. So do something strategic, meaningful, and creative that addresses your local needs. The Program offers a broad range of opportunities—intentionally not to shoe-horn all communities into one solution. For some their need might be a community-wide assessment and adaptation strategy, for others a demonstration project, a staff subsidy, a dike replacement strategy, or an infrastructure climate vulnerability assessment. Use this funding to establish a transformative stepping stone towards a better future.

Contribute pennies on the dollar

Funding available through FCM’s Green Municipal Fund has been based on a 50-50 split, between grant funding and community investment. With this new program however, FCM has increased their contribution to 80% and the other 20% can be either a community investment or funding from another source. So for example, on the $175,000 contribution limit for studies and plans, that translates to projects valued at $218,750, where FCM will cover $175,000 and the community or another funding program will contribute $43,750. In addition, staff time can qualify as part of the overall project budget.

Double dipping is OK

The overall Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program consists of several related initiatives, including but not limited to: funding of plans, feasibility studies, capital demonstration projects and staff salaries, as well as training and supporting staff members to build capacity and awareness. Communities do not become ineligible once they receive funds, so they can apply for multiple initiatives at the same time, or apply say in year 1 for doing a plan, followed in year 2 by a demonstration project or a follow-on phase to the earlier work. They also are eligible and encouraged to apply for the new Municipal Asset Management Program coming in the spring of 2017 and other existing FCM programs.

Collaborate for greater impact

Climate change does not pay attention to jurisdictional boundaries. While some impacts might be very localized, others are regional in nature. This might make it hard for smaller communities to undertake climate vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans where so much falls outside their control. It could be beneficial, and even essential, for communities to work with neighboring communities or their region to pool resources. First Nations or other partners that have servicing agreements in place with local governments can also qualify for funding. With the right project scoping, it is possible for various communities to apply for funding (up to $175,000 each), and collaborate on a common project. Some projects are just more efficient to do together—such as assessing vulnerabilities or drafting policies that can be shared by all. Some projects are impossible to do in isolation—such as a dike improvement project where the dike crosses into another jurisdiction. Establish the collaborative project scope, partners, and boundary and then figure out how to pool the project budget into a simple grant application.

Already underway? No problem!

Some communities have already begun taking steps to implement climate adaptation strategies to protect their communities. Don’t fear—you have not missed out. If anything you have demonstrated early leadership that will be valuable in your application process. This new funding may provide an opportunity for your community to explore subsequent phases to the work you have already completed with additional funding support. FCM will consider supporting projects that have already been initiated but have not yet passed the 50% completion mark at the time of application.

Early bird gets the worm

It is anticipated that the grant program will be a 5-year program. There are no annual allotments of funding per calendar year. Funding is reviewed through a process that is markedly faster than the current GMF process. As with past programs, FCM will consider the range of applications and seeks to support communities of all sizes across Canada. I predict that there will be high demand for this program—so don’t wait! Get thinking about how to leverage these funds to best serve your community.

We believe that incorporating adaptive solutions to climate change into strategic and operational plans is not only necessary but smart business. Once the above have been considered, think big and educate yourself and your community on the steps to successfully apply for the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program.

This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

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