Ottawa is pledging $1.6 billion to improve Canada’s climate resilience through measures such as improved infrastructure and enhanced flood mapping.
The promises are included in the government’s climate adaptation strategy, released Thursday after being worked on for almost two years. It outlines Ottawa’s intention to build a more climate-resilient society, which has been impacted over the years by various wildfires and floods.
Ottawa plans to use the $1.6 billion to help fund municipalities and townships in building public infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change, like roads and bridges. It also wants to ensure Canadians have access to the information to stay safe during events like wildfires. Ottawa also plans on using the funds to work with Indigenous communities on the development of region-specific health initiatives linked to changing climate conditions.
“If we do nothing, we have seen the costs of these types of disasters have been increasing and accelerating … year after year,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told reporters on Thursday.
“By investing in a stronger Canada, by investing in a more resilient Canada, we can make a real difference and we can save Canadian taxpayer dollars, and at the same time, make our community stronger and help Canadians be safer.”
The goals of Ottawa’s national adaptation strategy include improving disaster resilience, as well as the health and well-being of Canadians. It also hopes to protect nature and biodiversity, infrastructure and the economy as a whole. The government said in the release the funding announced will help see through its objectives.
Ottawa’s plans adds $489 million to the federal disaster mitigation and adaptation fund over 10 years, as well as $284 million over five years for the strengthening wildfire management.
Furthermore, Ottawa will spend $164 million over five years on flood mapping and work with provinces and territories to identify areas at high risk of flooding. There is also $60 million over five years to speed up the use of climate-informed standards for resilient infrastructure, and investments of $95 million over five years to provide climate tool kits, some of them online, for citizens and governments.
Finally, the plan includes $30 million over five years to expand Health Canada programs helping people protect themselves from extreme heat, and $13 million over five years to expand other health programs related to climate change impacts.
“There will be floods … there will be heat events, but going forward we’re making significant investments in protecting Canadians from those events,” Blair said.
“We’ll continue to have to respond to them, but in all of our responses informed by the national adaptation strategy, we’ll be better, safer and smarter in how we make our investments going forward.”
The strategy is now open to the provinces, territories and national Indigenous organizations for a final 90 days of engagement, the government said.
Before they released the strategy, Blair and several other Liberal ministers and MPs toured some parts of Prince Edward Island devastated by post-tropical storm Fiona two months ago. That includes Red Head Harbour, where one wharf was demolished, one was lifted up several metres by the storm surge and one completely vanished.
The storm caused an estimated $660 million in insured damages. By 2030, extreme weather could cause $15 billion a year in damage, Ottawa has said. Every dollar invested in prevention and preparation can save up to $15 in costs, the government said Thursday.
In climate change policy, mitigation is the word used for actions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere, which lead to global warming, and to reduce the impact of rising temperatures as much as possible. Adaptation is the word used for actions that adjust our lives to the fact the planet has already warmed.
The global temperature has already risen 1.1 C above the pre-industrial level, with glaciers melting and the sea level rising, the United Nations has said.
Ottawa promised to release the strategy by the end of this year, but had hoped to have it published before the recent United Nations climate talks in Egypt. It wasn’t ready then, but the government will be able to present the strategy at the UN biodiversity summit in Montreal next month.
— with files from The Canadian Press