Breaking down policy siloes in Canada to protect vulnerable populations and increase national resilience to climate impacts and disaster risks

16:15 Tuesday 28 May




Jimena Eyzaguirre (Canada) 1; Marc Nelitz (Canada) 1; Heather Stager (Canada) 2

1 - ESSA Technologies Ltd.; 2 - Global Affairs Canada

The patterns and occurrence of extreme events around the globe are shifting as a result of climate change; past trends are generally expected to intensify. In Canada, hydro-meteorological hazards directly affected by climate change include rapid-onset events such as overland flooding, wildfires, extreme heat, landslides, ice / hail storms, as well as coastal inundation, storm surge, and erosion associated with coastal-storm events. The rise in insured losses and costs to respond to these hazards over recent decades is already significant. Total losses for Canada due to floods, storms and hurricanes between 2005 and 2014 amounted to C$30.1 Billion. Changing patterns will continue to affect people, communities, and the economy.

Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are two overlapping domains from which to assess and respond to ever-changing risk profiles. Neither domain on its own sufficiently prepares us for the changing nature of climate and disaster risk. In Canada, disaster risk reduction (DRR) involves an inter-governmental and multi-stakeholder effort to coordinate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from hydro-meteorological, geological and human-induced hazards. In comparison, roles and responsibilities for adaptation are evolving, although initiatives to prepare for and address impacts of climate change have blossomed in recent years. By shifting the frequency and / or intensity of extreme weather, climate change exacerbates disaster risk and has implications for DRR. At the same time, an effective climate change adaptation (CCA) response addresses long-term climate impacts alongside vulnerability to extreme hazards and non-climate stressors.

Policy frameworks and strategies in Canada are starting to recognize the importance of linking DRR and CCA. In practice, however, integration is limited. Measures to increase resilience to climate-related-disasters such as “Planned Retreat” and “Build Back Better” are often not implemented. For example, Canada’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements Program offers an additional 15% for mitigation funding available for building back better projects and efforts but the uptake is low. “Planned Retreat” in coastal communities can save significant costs associated with flooding and other coastal risks. However, these types of recommendations are often met with public opposition.

This presentation summarizes the current state of knowledge on integration of DRR and CCA in Canada and highlights improvements of relevance from other countries. Using examples from across Canada, we describe six broad types of barriers and enablers to DRR-CCA integration and outline ways to look beyond existing divisions between DRR and CCA in favour of more holistic approaches.