Montreal Climat Lab

The main impact of the Climate Lab is to question and integrate climate change adaptation into concrete urban planning and governance practices.

Project details
Scientific program
2014-2019 programming
Theme(s) and priority(s)
Built Environment
Start and duration
July 2019 • April 2021
Project Status
Sophie Van Neste


Adapting to climate change in cities presents multiple challenges. These challenges are sometimes related to uncertainty about the changes and the specific implications they will have on sites and territories, depending on their specific vulnerabilities.

However, the challenges are also related to the fragmentation of public action and the fact that adaptation requires multidisciplinary and cross-cutting collaborations among the different services, professions and even timeframes of urban public action. This project focuses on the Lachine East sector, where the project management process is underway



Document the practices and issues experienced by municipal professionals in their interactions, among themselves and with their partners, regarding the integration of climate change adaptation into urban development projects, and then experiment with other ways to more explicitly integrate adaptation into their practices.

This experimentation aims to facilitate the coordination of stakeholders, the identification of missing expertise and the clarification of climate change adaptation choices.


  • Develop an understanding of current processes and practices in order to identify the needs and challenges posed by more explicit integration of adaptation: data collection through observation of working meetings, analysis and synthesis of documents, individual interviews, network analysis of the professionals involved, etc.

  • Experiment with the living laboratory by creating a flexible experimentation structure, bringing together stakeholders who are not accustomed to working together.

  • Make use of various tools including workshops and an information-sharing platform.

  • Document the living laboratory throughout the process.


The research-action procedure carried out over 18 months enabled some observations to be made on the integration of climate change adaptation into the process of developing an urban project in Montréal. Through workshops that fostered connections between relevant parties, several inter-department collaborations arose, as well as coordination between the centre city and the boroughs that is growing thanks to the Bureau de projet partagé (joint project office) established in March 2020. However, these relationships depend on three key parties and face constraints associated with the urban project process as well as the broader institutional and financial framework. The lack of relationships with external institutions, especially with regard to public transit, seems to hinder upstream consideration of climate change adaptation.

In terms of expertise, it was noted that there is little mobilization of knowledge relating to heat island prevention in the planning of Lachine East and little consideration of social vulnerabilities to heat waves. In contrast, expertise on adapting the city to the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rain events is well in evidence and in demand in the planning of Lachine East, although improvements are needed to increase the planning of co-benefits of interventions.
Action on this topic is also limited by issues associated with the segmentation of stormwater management between the public and private domains, the fragmented governance of green infrastructure and the failure to take topography into account.
The activities of the Climate Lab also made it possible to document the fact that adaptation to climate change involves choices and trade-offs; in other words, the decisions on which actions to prioritize are neither neutral nor purely technical, especially when it comes to climate change adaptation. Several stakeholders in the Lachine community want Lachine East to become a model eco-district, while favouring heritage protection and inclusive neighbourhoods.

Making choices and trade-offs in such a context is essential, especially since the specific standards and criteria establishing what would be considered exemplary for an eco-district, and their modes of implementation, have yet to be specified by the public authorities, in conversation with civil society and real estate developers.

The Climate Lab has issued four recommendations for integrating adaptation more explicitly and formally into the urban project governance process in the city of Montréal. First, integrate climate into the collective evaluation of the relevance of the project and its constraints, at the justification stage. Second, include the climate in the deliberations on different planning assumptions. Third, specify the contribution of measures to regulate the private sector in terms of adaptation, particularly in the regulatory aspects announced in the Special Urban Planning Program. Fourth, ensure that green infrastructure is effective, well-assimilated  and resilient.

Four other recommendations by the Climate Lab focus on challenges to be met for climate change adaptation: 

  • When redeveloping former industrial land and its surroundings, implement a strategy for adapting to heat waves. 

  • Get external institutions involved in adaptation. 

  • Perpetuate inter-department collaboration and learning in the institutional structure.

  • Improve the fragmented governance of green infrastructure.

Figure 1


Benefits for adaptation

Benefits for adaptation

The analysis of the network of parties involved in climate change adaptation and of the perceptions of the expertise that can be mobilized within the network will be useful in other organizations and networks wishing to reflect on the issues of coordination (for example between different departments and divisions) and expertise related to climate change adaptation.

Scientific publications

Document type
L'adaptation aux changements climatiques dans le réaménagement d'un secteur urbain à Montréal :…
Van Neste, S.L., Rochefort, M., Dagenais, D.,…
L'adaptation aux changements climatiques dans le réaménagement d'un secteur urbain à Montréal :…
Van Neste, S.L., Rochefort, M., Dagenais, D.,…
Concrétiser l’adaptation aux changements climatiques : réflexion entourant les outils d’encadrement…
Labo Climat Montréal


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