Canada unveils first-ever adaptation strategy for climate change

Federal funding targets five priority areas under the new adaptation strategy: health and well-being; building and maintaining resilient public infrastructure; protecting and restoring nature and biodiversity; supporting the economy and workers; and reducing the impacts of climate-related disasters. Graphic credit: Environment and Climate Change

As climate change continues to increase the frequency of wildfire, flooding and devastating storms, the federal government is trying to face up to the challenge with adaptation objectives and targets that deliver some 70 actions against climate risk.

Through the first-of-its-kind National Adaptation Strategy, as well as $1.6 billion in new federal funding commitments to help protect communities, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault said it’s time to help municipalities and townships build public infrastructure for the future.

“The fight against climate change has reached our doorstep,” announced Guilbeault in a statement. “We must not only reduce the emissions that cause climate change, we must also adapt to the changes that are upon us. Adaptation is a cost-effective and positive investment in the present and future,” he added, noting that every dollar spent on adaptation measures today saves up to $15 for the future, including both direct and indirect economy-wide benefits.

Craig Stewart, VP of climate change and federal issues for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said that over the past 15 years, insurance claims from severe weather have more than quadrupled. He said today’s world of extreme weather events are the new normal, and annual insured catastrophic losses in Canada have reached $2 billion – mostly due to water-related damage.

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“The time to act is now and we’re proud to see this National Adaptation Strategy present opportunity for action,” Stewart announced in a statement.

In recent years, Hurricane Fiona battered the Atlantic provinces and eastern Quebec in September 2022; extreme heat waves and wildfires challenged British Columbia and Alberta; droughts and crop losses occurred in the Prairies; and flooding and wind storms have caused widespread damage in Ontario and Quebec.

The government has also released an action plan to complement the new strategy and address these devastating weather events that have only been exacerbated by climate change. To mitigate wildfire risks, the government is looking to create a Centre of Excellence for Wildland Fire Innovation and Resilience, and support Indigenous fire stewardship. To reduce flooding, the action plan is designed to complete flood hazard maps for high-risk areas and advance work to complete flood mapping nationwide. Additionally, as summer heat risks increase, the action plan will lead to the activation of a heat alert and response system that engages and mobilizes communities.

Federal funding will help implement five priority areas of the new adaptation strategy: improving health and well-being; building and maintaining resilient public infrastructure; protecting and restoring nature and biodiversity; supporting the economy and workers; and reducing the impacts of climate-related disasters.

New funding under the national strategy will also see a renewed commitment to the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) — administered through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) — to help communities deploy funding in climate-focused projects to specific municipal needs of the future.

FCM called the new funding an opportunity to support municipal adaptation efforts through a single window for communities across Canada to advance their adaptation priorities through the GMF.

“By leveraging our deep networks of municipalities and municipal associations across Canada, the Green Municipal Fund is uniquely positioned to deliver adaptation-focused capacity building and funding directly to local governments,” FCM President Taneen Rudyk said in a statement.

All new investments in infrastructure apply resilience criteria and adopt climate change guidance, standards, and future design data to maximize the long-term benefits of infrastructure outcomes, the strategy states.

New funding is also coming through a top-up to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to build additional new structural and natural infrastructure to increase the resilience of communities. The federal government said that developing the tools and data services that Canadians need to access the right information, and to support experts with climate modelling and assessments will be a priority.

Regular reporting on indicators at the national level will help track adaptation progress across the country and build a better understanding of resilience in Canada, said federal officials.

The new strategy is now open to the provinces, territories, and national Indigenous organizations for a final 90 days of engagement on the adaptation strategy’s common goals and specific measurable targets and objectives.


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