Canadians will have a say in how to adapt to climate change
As spring flooding devastates communities in western and northern Canada, the federal government is asking Canadians to pitch their ideas for adapting to climate-related disasters.
Ottawa is in the final stages of developing the country’s first-ever national adaptation strategy. On Monday, he launched a public engagement process to hear from Canadians about how communities and businesses will live with and minimize the impacts of floods, heat domes, wildfires and similar disasters.
In a press release, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault called climate change adaptation a “war on two fronts” and said businesses and communities must “play both attack and defence” to reduce emissions and find ways to mitigate the impact of global warming.
“We need to reduce carbon pollution and we need to prepare for the impacts of climate change,” Guilbeault said.
Canadians have witnessed all kinds of severe weather events in recent years. Last summer, extreme heat in British Columbia caused a deadly heat wave and wildfires to destroy the town of Lytton, British Columbia.
More recently, record flooding in central and southern Manitoba has brought the issue of climate adaptation to the fore.
Make communities more resilient
Guilbeault said the adaptation strategy could consider measurable goals — for example, estimating how many fewer Canadians would be affected by floods or wildfires as a result of the measures identified.
Background documents shared by the government also suggest that the strategy could lead to the standardization of the emergency alert system, the expansion of the network of first responders by investing in equipment and the design of roads, railways and other more resilient infrastructure.
A working paper released today also suggests some things that could be included in the government’s adaptation plan: relocating people from areas at high risk of flooding; standardize the emergency alert system; expanding the network of first responders; and investing in equipment and designing more resilient roads, railways and other infrastructure.
Although the discussion paper does not go into as much detail, it does highlight the role of the health care system and nature-based climate solutions, such as planting trees or restoring vegetation. There is also no mention of the cost of the necessary changes, or whether the costs will be borne by the public or private sector.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada, a trade association that represents the industry, estimates that it would cost the Canadian economy about $5 billion a year to deal with weather damage caused by climate change.
Craig Stewart, IBC’s vice president of climate change and federal issues, said those costs should be shared by insurers, banks, property owners and governments.
“The challenge is too great for governments to take on themselves,” Stewart said. “It doesn’t have to be supported by governments.”
Consultations end on July 15 and the government intends to release its final strategy in the fall.
“A good national adaptation strategy will identify the concrete things that need to be done,” said Ryan Ness, director of adaptation research at the Canadian Climate Institute, which studies climate policy.
Ness said the strategy should identify flooding as one of Canada’s biggest climate change risks and one of the areas requiring immediate investment.
Such a strategy would establish a “game plan”, he said, which could include information on which communities are most at risk of flooding and which will face more risk in the future due to the flood. climate change, while proposing specific solutions.