Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change second annual report: section 5

4.0 Adaptation and resilience

Canadians are already feeling the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, such as the changing intensity and frequency of flooding, storms and wildfires, coastal erosion, extreme heat events, thawing permafrost and sea level rise. This is underscored through recent examples such as the heat wave in Québec and Ontario during summer 2018, floods in British Columbia and New Brunswick during 2018, record wildfires in British Columbia, and the continued spread of Lyme disease into Eastern Canada.

Northern regions are warming at a significantly faster rate than the rest of Canada. As a result, permafrost is thawing, damaging buildings and roads; new plant and animal species are moving north, impacting ecosystems, wildlife, and traditional practices; glaciers are melting, changing river flow patterns; sea ice thickness and distribution is changing, disrupting travel routes and preventing remote communities and Indigenous Peoples from accessing traditional hunting and fishing grounds; and there is a higher risk of flooding, landslides and, in the northwest, more frequent and severe forest fires.

These impacts pose significant risks to the safety, security, health and well-being of all Canadians, our communities, the economy and the natural environment. While actions ranging from pricing carbon pollution to mitigating GHG emissions to investing in clean technologies are vital to minimize the severity of climate change, the impacts of climate change are already being experienced and will continue into the future, and efforts to adapt to these changes are urgently needed to minimize costs and keep Canadians safe. Ontario for example, is working to improve municipal emergency management programs under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act whereby jurisdictions within the province are forging ahead towards more comprehensive emergency management programs.

Projected increase in annual average temperature by the end of the century
Long description

A gradient map of Canada showing a change in temperature of about 9 degrees Celsius in the far north, a 6 to 7 degree change near Hudson's Bay and 4 to 5 degree change near the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The colours on the map indicate the amount of projected temperature increase by 2081 to 2100, compared to the recent past (the reference period is 1986 to 2005). While there are a large range of possible futures, this map is based on a high global emissions scenario. See Changes in temperature for more information.

In implementing the adaptation and resilience commitments made in the PCF, federal, provincial and territorial governments are responding proactively to the risks that climate change impacts pose to the safety, security, health and well-being, economy and natural environment of Canada. This includes continuing efforts towards:

  • ensuring Canadians have information, multidisciplinary expertise and capacity to consider climate change in their planning and decision-making
  • building climate resilience through infrastructure, codes, and standards
  • working to protect the health and well-being of Canadians
  • supporting particularly vulnerable regions and indigenous peoples in addressing climate impacts; and
  • reducing the risks to communities from climate-related hazards and disasters

Over the second year of PCF implementation, progress has been made by governments to meet these commitments, including through the launch of several new funding programs and initiatives that focus on a wide range of adaptation activities, from ensuring that Canadians have the information needed to better understand and plan for the impacts of climate change, to strengthening the climate resilience of our existing and new infrastructure. Governments have continued to focus on supporting adaptation efforts in vulnerable regions, in particular, for Indigenous Peoples. Governments are also working to ensure that government operations and facilities are more resilient to climate impacts and are promoting natural infrastructure projects that build climate resilience.

In addition, the Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Results, launched by the Government of Canada in partnership with adaptation experts from across Canada – including academia, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations, private sector, local governments, and youth – released its final report in spring 2018. The report recommends a suite of indicators to measure progress on adaptation in Canada that align with the five key areas of action for adaptation and resilience that are identified under the PCF.

Ministers of Agriculture have also advanced efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including through the launch of multiple initiatives under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to support capacity building, science and innovation, and knowledge transfer activities to enhance the long- term sustainability and resilience of the agriculture sector. In addition, Forest Ministers are working to better combat the spread of pests that destroy forests and increase wildfire risks, such as the mountain pine beetle and the spruce budworm.

Recognizing the importance of mobilizing action on climate change adaptation, which is an integral part of Canada’s domestic and international climate change efforts, Canada joined the Global Commission on Adaptation as a convening nation on October 16, 2018. The Global Commission on Adaptation is a new initiative being spearheaded by the Netherlands with a goal of elevating the visibility of climate change adaptation by bringing together strong global adaptation thought leaders with a focus on identifying and encouraging solutions. The Commission is being led by Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank.

4.1 Translating scientific information and traditional knowledge into action

Access to information on how the climate and the environment are changing and how these future conditions will impact Canada is essential for understanding climate impacts and taking action to build resilience across the country. Climate science and Indigenous Knowledge are integral to informing decisions to manage risks, reduce costs, and support resilient communities in the face of a changing climate. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments committed to provide authoritative climate information and work with partners to build regional adaptation capacity and expertise.

In 2018, federal, provincial and territorial governments continued to make significant progress to improve access to authoritative, foundational climate science and information, build regional capacity and expertise, respectfully partner with and support Indigenous Knowledge, and mobilize action. Governments also continued to work together to improve climate services in Canada. For example, the Government of Canada launched the Canadian Centre for Climate Services (CCCS) in fall 2018 so that Canadians can have the information and support they need to understand and plan for climate impacts.

The Canadian Centre for Climate Services website contains a suite of data and resources that support adaptation decision-making including:

  • climate information basics to help Canadians better understand climate change
  • access to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s climate data through an interactive map, and the ability to download authoritative climate datasets
  • a Library of Climate Resources to access other information that will support decision-making, including climate datasets and resources consolidated across federal, provincial, and territorial governments, national professional organizations, climate consortia and established international organizations

CCCS’ Climate Services Support Desk can help guide users in finding or using climate information to support adaptation decision-making

The CCCS is also collaborating with existing regional climate organizations and with provinces and territories to establish regional climate organizations where none currently exist, in order to jointly deliver climate services that respond to local needs. Provinces and territories have also made significant progress to improve climate change modelling and projections to better understand future climate variability, and to support adaptation decision-making.

The Government of Canada has also undertaken efforts to support increased collaboration on climate science through the Targeted Federal Climate Change Science Plan; the launch of the Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, a national assessment to examine how Canada’s climate is changing, the impacts, and how Canadians are adapting; and through the approval of the first round of regional capacity building projects under the Building Regional Adaptation and Capacity Expertise (BRACE) program.

Provinces and territories are also working to integrate climate change considerations into decision-making across all levels. This includes efforts to improve risk assessment and hazard mapping to inform risk prioritization, identify actions to respond to these risks and through the development of resources, training, courses, guidance and frameworks that support resilient infrastructure, community planning, and business decision-making. Efforts are also underway across multiple jurisdictions to better measure progress towards resilience.

On November 29, 2018, Ontario released “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan”. As part of the plan, Ontario will undertake a provincial impact assessment to identify where and how climate change is likely to impact Ontario’s communities, critical infrastructure, economies and natural environment. The assessment would provide risk-based evidence to government, municipalities, businesses, Indigenous communities and Ontarians and guide future decision making. Ontario will also undertake impact and vulnerability assessments for key sectors, such as transportation, water, agriculture and energy distribution.

Governments are supporting Indigenous Peoples in gathering and incorporating Indigenous Knowledge and science into adaptation planning and decision-making through various programs and initiatives. This includes efforts through the Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program for First Nations and Inuit, First Nation Adapt Program, Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program, and Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring program. These programs support the gathering and partnering of science and Indigenous Knowledge to better understand and support adaptation planning, including, for example, to ensure food and water security, positive mental health and to reduce the risks of extreme weather and climate impacts for Indigenous Peoples. British Columbia is developing a government- wide approach to how the province considers and incorporates Indigenous Knowledge into decision-making.

Alberta provided funding in 2018-2019 for a pilot project, the Indigenous Climate Change Observation Network, to build capacity in Alberta’s Indigenous communities to mobilize Indigenous Knowledge for climate change monitoring and inform adaptation planning and decision-making. The objective of the project is to develop a multimedia platform that demonstrates the potential of existing approaches to mobilizing, interpreting, and utilizing the best available knowledge (both Indigenous and scientific) about climate change.

4.2 Building climate resilience through infrastructure

Climate-resilient infrastructure, both built and natural, can help safeguard human health and safety, improve the sustainability of our communities, and foster a prosperous economy in a changing climate. In the PCF, federal, provincial and territorial governments committed to partner to enhance climate resilience through infrastructure investments, including for natural infrastructure and to work together to integrate climate-resilience into building design codes and standards.

Implementation continued strongly in 2018 with governments rolling out significant investments in programs and projects designed to support climate resilient infrastructure. In spring 2018, the $2 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF), for large-scale infrastructure projects that build climate resilience by protecting communities from natural disasters and extreme weather, was officially launched. The first intake of projects is currently being assessed, with the first selected project announced in June 2018.

The first project under Canada’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund will support the construction of Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin outlet channels. When completed these channels will allow Manitoba to better regulate lake levels and provide stronger protection to individuals, businesses, communities and farmland in areas prone to flooding.

In addition, climate resilience projects are eligible under the Green Infrastructure funding stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, delivered through Integrated Bilateral Agreements (IBAs). All provinces and territories have signed IBAs with the Government of Canada. In June, Canada also launched the Climate Lens.Footnote 15 The Lens will help infrastructure owners design better projects by assessing their opportunities to reduce carbon pollution and identify when they should be adapting project design to better withstand impacts of climate change (e.g., severe weather, floods, sea-level rise, etc.). The Lens will be applied to projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund and Smart Cities Challenge.

In addition, federal, provincial and territorial governments are collaborating with stakeholders, partners and academia to create new codes and standards that support climate resilient infrastructure. For example, the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative is integrating climate resiliency into building and infrastructure design, guides, and codes. As well, the Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure program is updating existing standards for infrastructure and buildings for climate resilience and developing a new National Standard of Canada to reduce flood risk in residential communities. Working with northern communities, the Government of Canada’s Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative (under the Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure program) is supporting the development of standards to mitigate the impacts of climate change on, and increase the resilience of, infrastructure in the Canadian North.

Provinces and territories are also advancing efforts towards building climate-resilience through infrastructure by revising procurement and project review processes and ensuring climate considerations are considered during planning, design and retrofit. For example, Prince Edward Island is developing voluntary coastal flood construction guidance to minimize exposure of new developments to flooding from sea level rise and storm surge. Additionally, Newfoundland and Labrador has initiated a collaborative project aimed at increasing capacity among professional engineers, planners, and other professionals to integrate climate change considerations into public infrastructure decisions, and incorporated a provincial climate lens into capital works funding processes.

Multiple efforts are also underway to advance the use of natural infrastructure to support climate resilience. For example, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment released a report on best and promising practices for natural infrastructure in summer 2018. Prince Edward Island piloted a project to construct inter-tidal reefs to protect their beaches and coastal infrastructure from erosion. Nova Scotia invested in both traditional infrastructure (e.g., dykes) and natural infrastructure (e.g., salt marsh restoration) to adapt to extreme weather events and sea-level rise; and Québec is funding a research project to protect drinking water sources from future climate scenarios using natural infrastructure.

Québec supports municipalities in the implementation of sustainable stormwater management infrastructure at source, in the context of climate change. This new innovative program will promote the establishment and sharing of innovative solutions, including natural infrastructure. An amount of $10 million is allocated to this program.

Prince Edward Island, with support from the National Disaster Mitigation Program, completed construction of an innovative beach stabilization project in March designed to make the coastal highway near the Town of Souris more resilient to storm events. The project involved construction of two inter-tidal reefs to enhance and stabilize a beach and dune complex that runs parallel to the highway near the town. This project will also serve as an adaptation trial demonstration for similar at-risk communities and coastlines.

In the transportation sector, the Government of Canada, through the Transportation Assets Risk Assessment initiative, has advanced efforts to better understand the climate risks to federal transportation assets and potential adaptation solutions that could be employed. Yukon is developing permafrost maps as well as identifying infrastructure sensitivities and adaptation options along the Dempster Highway. Manitoba is investing in upgrades to highways to increase flooding resilience in the province. Saskatchewan significantly increased its budget for dam operation and maintenance, and is investing $82 million in rural highway upgrades, including, replacing and rehabilitating bridges and culverts, to protect against flooding.

4.3 Protecting and improving human health and well-being

Climate change directly threatens the health and well-being of Canadians. Focusing efforts to help Canadians take action to protect themselves, and to prepare health care systems to deal with emerging challenges related to health risks from extreme heat, reduced air quality, and climate-driven infectious diseases, is key to the vitality of Canadian communities. Community-based approaches and solutions are also important to the well-being of Indigenous Peoples facing unique and growing health-related challenges.

In the PCF, federal, provincial and territorial governments committed to work together in addressing climate change-related illness, and reducing health risks through enhanced research, monitoring, and awareness. The Government of Canada also committed to support Indigenous communities in undertaking health adaptation projects and community-based monitoring activities to address growing health challenges.

In 2018, multiple efforts have been advanced to reduce the health risks associated with climate change. For example, 73% of health regions across Canada are now implementing evidence-based adaptation measures to protect Canadians from extreme heat, exceeding the initial target of 50% by 2019. There is also ongoing work towards new and enhanced heat warning systems in the provinces and territories.

In addition, the Government of Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation Capacity Building Contribution Program was launched in 2018 to support provincial and territorial ministries of health and health regions to assess climate change vulnerabilities, establish adaptation plans, and develop evaluation strategies in order to protect the health of Canadians and support increasing climate resiliency of the health system.

The Government of Canada continues to implement the Infectious Diseases and Climate Change Program to improve Canadians’ awareness of infectious disease risks associated with the changing climate. Over the last year, the new Infectious Disease and Climate Change Fund has supported projects that enhance baseline knowledge of infectious disease risks in specific regions of Canada. This includes studies and innovative approaches for surveillance, and the development of new tools and products to raise awareness and training for health professionals, communities, and vulnerable populations. Newfoundland and Labrador is developing a plan to study the environmental burden of Lyme disease in the province. Nova Scotia has updated their provincial Tick Borne Disease Plan, which includes surveillance programs and public education. Manitoba is delivering public health communications on climate-infectious diseases. Québec has undertaken research of zoonotic disease to better inform future research, surveillance, and prevention activities. Similarly, the Northwest Territories is compiling baseline information and conducting a risk assessment on the likelihood of climate-driven infectious diseases in the territory.

To better support healthy Indigenous Peoples and communities, the Government of Canada’s Climate Change Health and Adaptation Program for First Nations and Inuit (CCHAP) has been redesigned to reflect the unique circumstances of northern and southern populations and has funded projects related to food security, vulnerability assessments, adaptation planning, emergency management, mental health and water quality.

Work between the Métis Nations and the Government of Canada is also underway to meaningfully address the effects of climate change on health. The Government of Canada is also engaging with Indigenous Peoples and various Canadian stakeholders to develop health-adaptation programs, such as the Food Security and Climate Change in the Canadian North Program.

Many provinces and territories are also engaging with Indigenous Peoples and communities to build capacity and provide support for health-related adaptation actions. For example: British Columbia is supporting federal initiatives, such as the CCHAP, to raise awareness among communities; Saskatchewan is engaging with officials from the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority to support the reduction of climate-related health risks; the Government of Nunavut continues to participate in the multi-stakeholder Nunavut Committee on Climate Change Adaptation; and Yukon has launched two projects, in partnership with Yukon First Nations, to assess the effects of climate change on traditional food security.

In addition, Yukon and the Northwest Territories are working on improving emergency preparedness and response planning in the event of wildfires, and, in particular, to adverse ambient air quality. Yukon has developed a clean air cooling system center that can be deployed in communities where wildfires are impacting air quality, and the Northwest Territories has initiated a project to identify one or more facilities in each of its communities that can provide clean air shelters to residents.

4.4 Supporting particularly vulnerable regions

While all regions in Canada are faced with unique challenges from the impacts of climate change, Indigenous Peoples, as well as people living in northern and coastal areas, are particularly vulnerable and disproportionately affected. Impacts such as permafrost thaw and coastline erosion can permanently alter life in these regions. Changes in seasonal weather and climate conditions impact the transportation of food and other supplies and have made some traditional Indigenous travel and hunting routes unsafe, thereby deepening existing food security challenges. Indigenous Peoples actively drive action and contribute vital knowledge, experience, and leadership to adaptation efforts across Canada and the development of community- based solutions.

In the PCF, federal, provincial and territorial governments committed to advance efforts to invest in infrastructure to protect vulnerable regions and communities, build climate resilience in the North, support community-based monitoring by Indigenous Peoples, and support adaptation in coastal regions.

Progress has been made over the last year to advance these commitments. The governments of Canada, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, along with northern and Indigenous governments, communities, and organizations are working towards of the development of a strategic approach to strengthen northern capacity in the face of climate change impacts. The strategic approach is anticipated in late December 2019.

Many vulnerable and remote First Nations, Inuit and Métis initiatives are supported through the Government of Canada’s Indigenous Community- Based Climate Monitoring Program to monitor climate and climate change impacts to inform adaptation actions. Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and Saskatchewan are also supporting Indigenous Peoples to conduct community-based monitoring. Canada, Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador are funding the SmartICE program, which provides near real-time sea ice monitoring and information services by blending Inuit Traditional Knowledge with state-of-the-art technology to improve sea-ice safety and better inform decision-making. Alberta is currently gathering data which will be used to build the capacity of Indigenous organizations to undertake future monitoring activities. Yukon is working with First Nation communities to conduct Climate Change Preparedness in the North projects focused on climate change capacity building, food security, and ecological changes.

Ontario funded a project for 40 Indigenous communities through the Green Investment FundFootnote 16  in partnership between the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources and the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation. The project helped Indigenous communities to collect local community traditional ecological knowledge, and lead the assessment of their community vulnerabilities, in order to build capacity and develop local adaptation plans. This investment will also help create a Northern Ontario climate change impact study.

In the North, Manitoba is implementing its Northern Healthy Foods Initiative to enhance food security; British Columbia is working with northeastern jurisdictions to co-produce future climate projections, initiate climate risk assessments, and support adaptation efforts; the Northwest Territories launched the Community Adaptation Program to fund several adaptation projects and initiatives; and Québec is increasing the resilience of transportation networks in Nord-du-Québec.

The Government of Canada continues to conduct scientific research and monitoring in vulnerable coastal, marine areas and Arctic ecosystems to identify climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, including research and monitoring of changing ocean conditions and vulnerability assessments of fisheries and small craft harbours. Further efforts in coastal regions are ongoing. For example, Nova Scotia is developing a Coastal Protection Act to manage new developments and protect against sea-level rise, British Columbia is developing a provincial flood risk strategy and supporting the development of a regional Flood Hazard Strategy for the Lower Mainland, New Brunswick is investing in flood hazard mapping projects for coastal communities, and Québec continues to implement the Coastal Resilience Project to give tools to communities to reduce the impacts of coastal erosion on buildings and ecosystems.

Nova Scotia is developing coastal protection legislation that will define a coastal zone. It is proposed that in this zone, new development will be managed to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of sea level rise and storm surge. The proposed legislation will also help protect sensitive coastal ecosystems, such as salt marshes and dunes.

4.5 Reducing climate-related hazards and disaster risks

The summer of 2018 was marked with devastating wildfires in British Colombia, heat waves in Québec and Ontario, and flooding in New Brunswick. The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in Canada have increased and are expected to continue to rise. Effective disaster and emergency management are key to reducing the severe negative impacts these events can have on communities and the economy.

In the PCF, federal, provincial and territorial governments committed to investing in traditional and natural infrastructure that reduces climate- related disaster risks, advancing efforts to protect against floods, and supporting adaptation in Indigenous communities facing repeated and severe climate impacts and extreme weather events.

To advance these commitments, federal, provincial and territorial governments drafted an Emergency Management Framework for Canada, which will chart a course towards a more resilient future for Canadian society by 2030. Efforts have also been advanced to promote flood resilience through projects funded under the National Disaster Mitigation Program. These projects include assessing flood risk, developing floodplain mapping processes, and publishing case-studies in climate change floodplain mapping. Nova Scotia is renewing its Flood Risk Mitigation program to support municipalities to assess flood risk, develop flood mitigation plans, and invest in flood mitigation infrastructure, and Newfoundland and Labrador has activated new water level and climate monitoring stations in the Churchill River watershed to create real-time and accurate flood forecasting. In addition, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have updated, or are in the process of updating, floodplain hazard maps and are implementing flood mitigation strategies. Manitoba is reviewing a new flood protection level in the design and construction of water control infrastructure to enhance resilience to major flood events and Prince Edward Island began developing new, province-wide coastal flood risk maps to incorporate the latest information on sea level rise, storm surge and wave impacts.

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first province in Canada to use a flood risk mapping methodology that plots water speed, depth, and climate projections onto high-resolution aerial maps. These maps are important for identifying flood risks and supporting better planning in communities, and help regulate new developments in flood-prone areas to minimize flood damage to properties and the environment, and restrict activities that could degrade water resources.

In addition to flood risk, efforts have been advanced to address the risks associated with permafrost thaw in Nunavut through a pan-northern meeting on permafrost hazard mapping, and integration of permafrost considerations into infrastructure decision-making.

New standards and guidance are under development as part of the Government of Canada’s Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure initiative on flood-resilient design for new and existing residential communities, fire resilient buildings for Northern regions, and wind resilience for residential buildings.

To support adaptation for Indigenous communities, the Government of Canada’s First Nation Adapt Program continues to fund projects to address climate impacts, such as coastal and inland flooding, forest fires, impacts to fisheries and winter road failures in First Nation communities. Alberta has partnered with the Kainai First Nation to develop and deliver a community-wide adaptation project. New Brunswick has also partnered with Indigenous Peoples to share climate change information, complete vulnerability assessments, and implement adaptation planning projects and is developing publicly available landscape information (LiDAR) to support adaptation planning efforts. Since 2017, British Columbia has provided flood hazard mitigation funding support to seven Indigenous community projects, valued at $5.4 million. Similarly, the Northwest Territories has formed a team to develop hazard maps for communities and is developing new standards and best practices for community wildfire protection plans; Québec has developed climate scenarios for the Nunavik region and has undertaken a series of workshops to raise awareness and build capacity in northern Indigenous communities; Saskatchewan continues to maintain and enhance partnerships with Indigenous communities and leaders, and is in the process of developing a longer-term approach. Yukon also continues to partner with Indigenous Peoples and communities through avenues such as the Yukon Adaptation Forum to share climate information and build local capacity.

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