Mismatch between priorities and risks in national climate adaptation strategies, expert report finds

The Canadian Climate Institute said Ottawa’s climate resilience strategy sets goals and priorities but does not identify major climate change risks. A new report by the group makes 11 recommendations that it says could make the plan work.Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Canada’s $1.6 billion climate adaptation plan strings together a series of goals and priorities but fails to identify the country’s greatest climate change risks, a new expert report finds.

November, Ottawa releases draft its long awaited Strategies to Build Canada’s Resilience to Climate Change, allowing 90 days of feedback before making a final version. It lays out actions and investments in key areas, including wildfire prevention, flood mapping and adaptation to extreme heat.

In a report released Thursday, the Canadian Climate Institute, an independent policy research group, made 11 recommendations that it said could make the plan feasible. The institute’s main criticism is that Canada has not yet identified the problems it needs to address.

“The strategy’s priorities are not mapped against Canada’s key risks,” new report Say.

“The final national adaptation strategy should be more transparent about how targets are selected and, if necessary, the federal government should adjust the process for selecting targets to ensure they focus their activities on the appropriate priorities.”

The strategy is also woefully underfunded, the institute concluded. It argues that the government’s new funding commitments, spread over a decade, are disproportionate to the scale of the problem ahead.

“The announced $1.6 billion represents only an average annual increase of about $200 million in federal government investment in climate change adaptation,” the report said. “Furthermore, unless additional commitments are made, total federal government funding for adaptation in 2023 may actually be lower than in 2022, given that many of the existing programs outlined in the Action Plan will use up their allocated funds in the coming years. “

The Canadian Federation of Municipalities estimates that municipalities alone need approximately $5 billion a year to adapt and prepare their communities.

Impact climate change Frequency, severity, and cost are all increasing. Disaster relief spending in Ottawa is skyrocketing, and the federal government expects strategic investments to increase the resilience of at-risk communities will save money in the long run.

The new funding for the adaptation strategy is described as an upfront payment rather than a final price tag. The draft strategy document acknowledges that its stated objectives have been presented for discussion and refinement, and says it will be achieved after further consultation with the provinces and territories, Aboriginal communities and other stakeholders.

Ryan Ness, director of adaptation studies at the institute, said the draft plan had some important elements, but other countries that had developed national adaptation strategies – notably the UK, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – identified the challenges they faced first. key risks, and then set their priorities to match.

“They’ve got all the right pieces in place for the strategy. There’s more work to be done on how they’re going to get there,” Mr. Ness said of Canada’s plans.

He expects Ottawa does know the main risks, but has not yet shared the information.

“This is the basis of a national adaptation strategy,” he said. “I would be appalled if the people in the room working on this strategy didn’t have a specific set of prioritized risks in mind when developing this strategy.”

He noted that in 2019, a panel of experts from a committee of the Canadian Academy of Sciences The country’s biggest climate change risks outlined At the request of the Federal Ministry of Finance Committee. The panel identified the top six areas of climate change risk as: physical infrastructure, coastal communities, northern communities, human health and wellbeing, ecosystems and fisheries. These risks include urban flooding following extreme rainfall, heat waves, wildfires entering urban areas, and coastal infrastructure failure during storm surge events.

Canada has witnessed many climate catastrophes since the report was published. In 2021, British Columbia experienced a heatwave that killed more than 600 people, a wildfire devoured the town of Lytton extreme rainfall causes unprecedented catastrophic flood. The federal government is expected to pay BC more than $5 billion in disaster relief costs that year alone.

The Canadian Climate Institute report also called for clearer plans to ensure climate adaptation efforts are coordinated across all levels of government. “Effective national adaptation strategies move away from ad hoc responses that may miss important issues, redundant or contradictory, by identifying the most important actions to move climate adaptation forward.”

Further delays would be costly, the report warned.

“Without a significant acceleration of adaptation measures across the country, Canada’s adaptation gap – the gap between Canada’s skyrocketing adaptation needs and what is actually implemented – will continue to widen, and the impacts of climate change will increasingly jeopardize Lives and livelihoods are at risk.”

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