By Nia Williams
(Reuters) – Canada launched its first-ever national climate adaptation strategy on Tuesday, aimed at reducing the risk from extreme weather events like floods and wildfires and mitigating slow the impacts of fossil fuel-driven global warming, including melting permafrost.
The strategy come as Canada tackles its worst-ever wildfire season, with 7.8 million hectares already burned before the hottest months of the summer have even started.
By 2030, average annual losses from disasters are forecast to reach C$15.4 billion ($11.69 billion), according to the federal government, while the Canadian Climate Institute (CCI) estimates climate impacts will slow Canada’s economic growth by C$25 billion annually by 2025, equal to 50% of projected GDP growth.
Recent climate disasters include Hurricane Fiona hitting the Atlantic provinces, an “atmospheric river” of rain that produced record-breaking floods in British Columbia and a 2021 heat dome, also in British Columbia, that caused hundreds of deaths.
“The strategy aims to transform the way governments, communities, and Canadians work in partnership to prepare, and reduce risks of climate change through coordinated and ambitious action,” federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement.
Goals include improving health outcomes, protecting nature and biodiversity and building more resilient infrastructure. In coming months, the federal government will work with provinces and territories to implement key steps.
A C$164 million investment to improve flood mapping is already underway, and the government has committed more than C$2 billion since fall 2022 to adaptation projects.
Climate policy think-tanks welcomed the finalization of the strategy, which was published in draft form last November, but said it will take significant new funding and coordinated government action to deliver results.
“The National Adaptation Strategy is a strong tool to address the biggest climate risks facing the country,” said Ryan Ness, director of adaptation for the CCI. “The federal government needs to move quickly to fund and implement it to insulate Canadians from the growing threat and mounting costs of climate disasters.”
($1 = 1.3176 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Aurora Ellis)