Ottawa unveils its strategy to deal with extreme weather conditions

ST. PETERS BAY, PEI — The federal government on Thursday unveiled a “national climate adaptation strategy,” which includes $1.6 billion in new spending to help communities cope with extreme weather events, such as heat waves, wildfires, floods and storms.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair made the announcement Thursday morning in Prince Edward Island, where post-tropical storm Fiona caused extensive damage to the power grid, farms and businesses. fishing industry when it swept through the region on September 24th.

Federal funding is primarily in addition to existing programs and will not cover the costs of major infrastructure projects, such as building dykes to protect the land link between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — a fee-based project shared that Ottawa and the provinces have not yet approved.

Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy announced Thursday adds $489 million over 10 years to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. This federal fund already provides funding for smaller projects that address issues such as the risk to coasts from rising sea levels and infrastructure collapse due to thawing permafrost.

The national strategy also provides $284 million over five years to strengthen forest fire management, through measures such as creating wider firebreaks between forests and communities.

In addition, Ottawa will spend $164 million over five years on flood hazard mapping and work with provinces and territories to expand a system that identifies areas at high risk of flooding.

Ottawa is also providing $60 million over five years to accelerate the use of climate-informed standards for resilient infrastructure, and investments of $95 million over five years to provide climate toolkits, some of them online, citizens and local governments.

The plan also includes $30 million over five years to expand Health Canada programs that help people protect themselves from extreme heat, and $13 million over five years to expand other health programs related to the impacts of climate change. .

In climate change policy, the term “mitigation” refers to measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, those GHGs that trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to global warming. The term “adaptation” refers to measures that are adapted downstream, to adapt to the reality of a planet that is already experiencing a warming.

Scientific assessments show that in 2016, the average temperature in Atlantic Canada had already increased by 0.7°C since 1948. The average temperature in Quebec had gained between 1 and 3°C, depending on the region, and could warm up by 3.5°C more by 2050.

Oceanographers said warmer waters added to the intensity of post-tropical storm Fiona as it hit the Maritimes.

Before unveiling the new national strategy, Blair and several other Liberal ministers and MPs toured areas of Prince Edward Island on Thursday morning that were devastated by post-tropical storm Fiona two months ago. .

During a tour of Red Head Harbour, Mr Blair heard a captain explain how storm surge demolished the wharf. Fishermen have expressed uncertainty about when they could return to work.

“What we are seeing in recent years (…) is an increase in the frequency and severity of climate-related events, and that demands that we act, not just from one level of government, but from all of us, of every Canadian,” said Mr. Blair during the press conference.

Storm Fiona caused approximately $660 million in “insured damage”. By 2030, according to the federal government, extreme weather conditions could cause $15 billion in damage per year in Canada.

The government will consult the provinces and territories for 90 days on this national strategy and on the targets, some of which fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Financial needs could be less

The Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have estimated that the three levels of government will need to spend about $5.3 billion a year to address climate adaptation.

However, experts say that number could be lower if Canadians adapt to the climate we now face, instead of continuing to live in a country built for the climate of the past. The adaptation plan released by Minister Blair sets goals to begin this change, although its achievement depends on the cooperation of provinces, territories and Indigenous communities.

For example, the strategy states that within three years, the goal is for 80% of the country’s health authorities to have measures in place to protect citizens from extreme heat and that, by 2040, systems are in place. place to eliminate these types of deaths. Mr Blair recalled that British Columbia recorded around 619 deaths during the 2021 summer heat wave.

The plan also calls for a clear set of codes and standards for infrastructure projects — from highways to drainage systems — to be in place by 2030. The adaptation plan also suggests that preserving Natural systems can help Canada reduce the effects of global warming, and it sets a goal of conserving a quarter of the country’s land and water by 2025.

Louise Comeau, director of climate solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said she was pleased that the plan sets ambitious goals, including that six out of ten Canadians become “aware of the disaster risks to which their residence is exposed due to the climate change” within two years.

However, more details need to be provided on how those goals will be achieved, she said, and provinces and territories should be required to agree to meet predefined goals before receiving federal money.

“The $1.6 billion won’t go very far (…) so they had better be efficient with the money,” she concluded.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax and Mia Rabson in Ottawa

Note to readers: In an earlier version, The Canadian Press wrote that Storm Fiona caused $660 billion in insured damage. In fact, it’s $660 million.


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