MONTREAL — The federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, wants to provide Canadians with a strategy for resilience in the face of climate change and will kick off a national consultation on the subject, Monday at Montreal.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Minister Guilbeault pointed out that his government’s plan of attack to deal with climate change is deployed on two fronts, one offensive and the other defensive.
All of the measures, investments and regulations that appear in the GHG emissions reduction plan presented last March are part of the offensive front.
The defensive front, or resilience in the face of climate change, represents the strategy that must be deployed to limit the damage, human and financial, and anticipate the impacts of climate change.
“We have already entered the era of climate change, there are already impacts in Canada from one end of the country to the other. So how do we prepare? Are we ready? Clearly, I think we can agree that we are ill-prepared,” said Steven Guilbeault, citing the consequences of the floods, forest fires and heat waves that recently hit different regions of the country.
If we consider only the financial aspect, the insured damage attributable to extreme weather events in Canada reached $2.4 billion for the year 2020, according to the Toronto firm Catastrophe Indices and Quantification.
“We need to be able to set ourselves clear objectives,” said the minister.
“For example, a goal could be that such a percentage of the Canadian population is safe from flooding by 2030, so we will work with experts and partners to define how we get there.”
Defining how many Canadians live in flood-prone areas and how many are disaster-proof still requires working with up-to-date data and maps.
A recent report commissioned by Public Safety Canada from the Council of Canadian Academies indicates that Canadian governments often make decisions based on incomplete weather data and outdated flood maps.
The consequences of using outdated data can be dramatic. For example, a municipality could decide to allow the construction of a neighborhood on a flood-prone area because the data it has is not adapted to climate change.
In a context where the past is no longer necessarily a guarantee of the future, because extreme climatic events will increase in intensity and frequency, it is increasingly important to have access to reliable scientific data.
“Data is a critical element of any solid strategy on adapting to climate change,” said Minister Guilbeault, adding “that acting without data is like a chicken without a head.”
He pointed out that the federal government can play a role in partnership with provinces and municipalities to update new flood maps, but then “the information has to go to the municipalities and the municipalities have to get the information to the citizens”.
Hence the importance, argued Steven Guilbeault, that all levels of government come to the table to participate in the development of the national strategy for adaptation to climate change, emphasizing the word “national”.
“We want to lay the foundations for this strategy, which is not a federal strategy, it’s a national strategy, so we will work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, municipalities and other stakeholders. .”
The report written by the Council of Canadian Academies, which was published last January, also underlined that better collaboration between municipalities, provinces and the federal government is necessary to increase resilience to disasters. Communication of climate risks to citizens is also deficient. For example, the report “Building a Resilient Canada” states that a 2016 poll showed that only 6% of Canadians living in an area designated as prone to flooding were aware of this risk.
“The strategy will make it possible to identify these issues and then to ensure that there is someone who is responsible, someone who raises their hand, who says “ok, I will take this part » and another says « I’m going to take this end » so that in the end, there is no hole in our strategy. I think that right now, and I’m the first to admit, we’re not ready.”
Defense through natural environments
One of the ways to become more resilient in the face of climate change is also to focus more on nature-based solutions.
Minister Guilbeault cited as an example the “Grand Parc de l’Ouest”, which will become the largest urban park in the country.
This vast park, which received an investment of $50 million from the federal government, will be located in Pierrefonds-Roxboro and must cover an area of 30 square kilometres. It would then be 15 times larger than Mount Royal Park and eight times larger than Central Park in New York.
“One of the functions, I would say almost the first of the park, is its ability to absorb spring floods, therefore to limit flooding problems in that part of the country. This kind of project, we are starting to do that almost everywhere, then we finance it with money from Infrastructure Canada which historically was used to make concrete”, indicated the Minister, specifying that “it is a lot cheaper to invest in these solutions than to try to invest in technical, technological solutions”.
Public consultations on the climate change resilience strategy will begin in person and online next week and the government aims to adopt the strategy as early as the fall.
“It’s certainly ambitious, but at the same time, time is against us, natural disasters, there are more and more of them, so we have a responsibility to do the job well, but we also have to do it quickly” summed up Minister Guilbeault.