1 Liveable & Sustainable Communities | West Coast Environmental Law


Liveable & Sustainable Communities

“It’s my whole life.”

These are the words one resident used to sum up her connection to her coastal community at a public meeting. Birdwatching on the shoreline, kayaking in the bay, sharing life in a close-knit neighbourhood – all of these things are a part of daily life for her and other residents.

After learning about the risks facing their community as a result of climate change, impacts like rising sea levels and increased storm events, residents were keen to explore how ecosystem-based adaptation measures could help make their community more resilient. Yet with no integrated legal framework to protect our coasts, there is a real risk that climate adaptation could turn into quick fixes, such as hard armouring of our shorelines with seawalls and other structures that will have long-lasting and negative impacts on communities and ecosystems.

West Coast is working to help communities make informed choices – at public meetings like these, and by bringing together policymakers with scientists, urban designers and landscape architects who work with nature, instead of fighting it. We aim to draw on legal insights about jurisdiction and implementation to promote public participation and collaboration among different levels of government, and make sure that the importance of protecting coastal ecosystems is recognized.

Surrey Marina (Photo: Province of British Columbia)


  • December 2015:  West Coast convened a workshop with local and provincial government representatives to discuss emerging data on sea level rise, and how to manage uncertainty through ecosystem-based adaptation. Participants proposed three neighbourhoods as test cases, and West Coast began to develop project plans for autumn 2016.
  • May – June 2016:  West Coast partnered with ACT-SFU and the City of Surrey to deliver innovative sea level rise public engagement to Surrey residents in a coastal neighbourhood. Residents confirmed that ecosystem-based adaptation aligns well with their community values.


Our Environmental Decision Making work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation.