Adapting to the impacts of climate change: strategic environmental assessment public statement

A review of the potential environmental impacts of federal programs related to adapting to climate change impacts.

The Government of Canada is taking action to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. There is commitment to additional adaptation measures through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The adaptation initiatives are expected to support increased climate resilience across Canada  by:

  • translating information and knowledge into action
  • building resilience through infrastructure
  • protecting and improving human health
  • supporting particularly vulnerable regions
  • reducing climate hazards and disaster risks

More specifically these initiatives include:

The environmental effects of this suite of proposals are expected to be largely indirect and positive. The proposal outcomes do not necessarily interact directly with the environment.  The initiatives may inform decisions that eventually interact with the environment. For example, climate-based information, knowledge, tools, and skills developed through these programs could inform local decisions on how and where to build major infrastructure that will withstand climate change and improve the health of Canadians. Federal initiatives could also encourage positive environmental impacts through information that supports the benefits of ecosystem-based adaptation, such as the protection of wetlands or the greening urban infrastructure by planting trees to reduce health risks and other impacts of extreme heat.

These initiatives will contribute to the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) key priority of building resilience under the goal of "effective action on climate change". There are also many indirect positive impacts of this proposal on various FSDS goals and targets, including:

  • efforts to ensure “sustainably managed lands and forests”
  • ensure “healthy wildlife populations” support sustainable agricultural practices
  • ensure “safe and healthy communities” by supporting clean, sustainable communities that contributes to the health and well-being of Canadians

The specific proposals offer important environmental and social benefits through results such as:

  • climate change data, tools, and community climate information are available for use and Canadians are more able to apply relevant data, tools and knowledge in decisions
  • climate change is considered in infrastructure investments and investments are made in traditional and natural infrastructure to protect against climate risks
  • action is taken to support adaptation in vulnerable regions, such as the North and coastal regions
  • disaster risk-reduction efforts and adaptation measures reduce the negative impacts of events

While the exact costs of climate change are difficult to calculate, we do know that inaction on climate change will be very costly for Canada. For example, in 2011 the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) estimated that climate change costs for Canada could rise from $5 billion per year in 2020 to $21 to $43 billion per year by 2050. Climate change has become an important risk management issue for Canada's insurance industry. Insured losses for weather related claims have been near or above $1 billion in each of the last 6 years (2009 to 2014). In 2013, flood damage in southern Alberta and Toronto and an ice storm in southern Ontario and parts of eastern Canada pushed insured losses to a record $3.2 billion. The wildfire in Fort McMurray has set the latest record for insured losses at an estimated $3.58 billion.

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