With 70% of cities already experiencing the effects of climate change, municipalities need to make plans and set goals now. That’s the message from Toronto lawyer and climate change consultant Laura Zizzo, who says that municipalities who don’t act responsibly now could face several risks — including fiscal and legal consequences.

Zizzo, founder and CEO of Zizzo Strategy, a leading climate change consultancy, made these comments at the Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge Conference in Toronto, ON, as she addressed an audience comprised mostly of municipal managers from the greater Toronto region. Zizzo underscored why municipalities must plan for climate change and set goals now.

Successful climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies provide opportunities for municipalities to reduce costs, maintain service levels, and protect public health and safety.

– Laura Zizzo

Best Interests

Zizzo says although climate change comes with risks, it also has great opportunities, especially for cities.

“Climate change poses many risks,” she says. “That includes regulatory risk, performance risk, extreme weather risk, market risk and a litigation and technology risk.”  Many of those risks, she says, are directly associated from not taking action in planning for climate change. Not acting, she says, means you’re acting irresponsibly – which can have potential legal liabilities.

Zizzo says that taking action — making plans and setting goals — can make an economic difference which, she points out, includes a municipality’s credit rating and its possibility to get financing at a good rate.

“Moody’s has gone on record to say they are now looking at municipal governments and how they are dealing with climate change,” she says. “Acting responsibly when dealing with climate change is now a factor they consider in determining credit ratings,”

Zizzo says to plan, we need to look to the future and not the past and, from an economic perspective, figure out what climate change means.

“We only know about climate change because of data,” Zizzo says. “The biggest companies in the world aren’t the oil and gas companies anymore, they’re data companies. Climate change is a data management problem and if we can harness the power of data to solve these problems, that’s where the future lies.”

Don’t Miss Making Smart Investments

Zizzo urges municipalities need to keep an eye out on smart investments and think about how they can waste less through technology.

“Don’t miss an opportunity to make smart investments,” she says. “Make projections on what the future is likely to be. Municipalities need to avoid response and recovery spending and embrace an evolved understanding of operation and maintenance.”