Engineers Canada

Understanding the Changing Legal Climate: Canadian Climate Law for Engineers

Engineers have a professional duty to protect human health, safety and welfare and as such are subject to legal responsibilities and potential liability relating to climate impacts and associated damages on Canada’s infrastructure. As Canada’s climate continues to change, legal duties and standards of care are evolving to the point where relying on outdated standards and processes could be considered negligent.

This two-day professional development short course will educate engineers on climate change law issues and the associated implications on their practice.

Evaluation of learning outcomes will be part of meeting the course requirements. Successful completion will be recognized by Engineers Canada as meeting one of the elements of the Engineers Canada Infrastructure Resilience Professional (IRP) – Climate  certification program. This certification provides an additional level of qualification and recognition for a P.Eng. to oversee and perform climate risk and vulnerability assessment and assure that an infrastructure design has properly taken extreme weather and future climate into account.

The IRP-Climate Certification Program has been launched by Engineers Canada as all levels of government plan and implement significant investments in public infrastructure that serves Canadians. The need to properly consider climate to improve resiliency to impacts over the service life has never been greater given the projected changes in Canada’s climate.

The course may also be taken as continuing professional development (Certificate of Completion) without evaluation of learning outcomes for a lower fee.

Detailed Information

Climate change is here. It has already had a serious impact on our infrastructure, economy and environment and its future impacts will only grow with time. Mitigation efforts may slow the rate of change, but are unlikely to reverse the trend. The majority of Canada’s infrastructure is decades old, and was designed based on out-dated climate patterns. In light of our changing climate, design standards and existing infrastructure systems may need to be revised to ensure public safety and quality of life.

The joint efforts of engineers, architects and other infrastructure stakeholders will be required to address the combined challenges of infrastructure development and renewal in the face of climate change. Professionals must augment skills with new information necessary to (re)design for, and adapt to, a climate-adjusted future. An understanding of climate change risks and opportunities affecting project planning, design, construction and operation will be necessary to properly execute projects going forward.

Engineers have a professional duty to protect human health, safety and welfare and are subject to legal responsibilities and standards of care, which could expose them to legal liability relating to climate impacts and associated damages if proper standards of prudence are not met. As the climate continues to change, legal duties and standards of care are also evolving. Relying on outdated standards and processes could be considered negligent. There is a need for education on climate change law and policy developments among engineering professionals, the wider construction industry and related decision makers to promote improved consideration of climate change in a variety of practice-areas and project-types.

Engineers Canada has developed the Infrastructure Resilience Professional (IRP) certification program that recognizes an individual’s additional knowledge in planning, designing and managing resilient infrastructure and building assets and their components in the face of extreme weather and our changing climate. The IRP is available to licenced engineers who satisfy certain competency and assessment criteria.

This 2-day professional development course is recognized as part of the IRP program and aims to educate engineers on climate change law issues and the associated implications on their practice. The course is divided into four modules:

  • Module 1 - Legal Framework for Climate Change Mitigation
  • Module 2 - Legal Framework for Climate Change Adaptation
  • Module 3 - Professional Responsibility and Avoiding Negligence
  • Module 4 - Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change Risks

Modules 1 and 2 provide an overview of legal frameworks aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change and discusses existing and emerging legal obligations relevant to engineers at the provincial, federal and international level. Module 3 hones in on the roles and responsibilities of professional engineers and how engineers can adapt their practices to incorporate climate change and reduce exposure to potential negligence lawsuits. Finally, Module 4 explores corporate issues relating to climate change, including risk disclosure requirements, asset management and director and officer obligations, as engineers have a role in managing these risks and assisting clients to improve climate risk disclosure.

Course Instructors

Laura Zizzo BES, JD, Founder and CEO, Zizzo Strategy Inc.

Laura Zizzo is a lawyer and strategic advisor with over a decade of experience leading organizations towards a low-carbon and climate-adapted future through the application of law and policy. Laura started her legal career with a prominent Bay Street law firm before founding the first law firm in Canada focused on climate change in 2009. She is a frequent writer and speaker on the move to the low-carbon economy and is a leading voice on the legal imperative to adapt to climate change. Laura holds a degree in Environmental Studies (BES) from the University of Waterloo and a law degree (JD) from University of Toronto.

Joanna Kyriazis, Policy Director, Zizzo Strategy Inc.

Joanna is a lawyer and policy advisor who combines her advocacy and scientific skills to identify risks and create innovative solutions. Her work focuses on global carbon policy, land-use and transportation planning, resilient cities and climate risk. Joanna previously practiced at a boutique law firm where she advised clients on emerging issues in climate change, energy and environmental law and policy. Prior to that, she practiced at a premier law firm in New York. Joanna graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in Natural Resources (BSc) and obtained her law degree (JD) from the University of Toronto.

Zizzo Strategy helps private and public sector clients thrive in a low-carbon and climate-disrupted world.  We have both lawyers and engineers on our team and work at the intersection of law, engineering, and business, using our deep climate knowledge to help our clients understand critical issues, create frameworks to enable better decision making, and implement effective and efficient solutions.

Registration Information

Fee: $795 +HST (for professional development and recognition as meeting  IRP course requirement)
Fee: $475 +HST (for professional development only)

Fees cover course instruction and materials as well as coffee breaks and lunch on the two days. A Certificate of Completion will be issued by Engineers Canada. Recognition by IRP includes demonstrating learning outcomes through quizzes and passing a final out-of-class examination. An application for recognition of the course for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) is underway with the Engineering Institute of Canada. For further information please contact:

David Lapp, FEC P.Eng.
Practice Lead, Globalization and   Sustainable Development
Engineers Canada
Ottawa, ON
613-232-2474 ext 240