The climate crisis is here and its impacts, such as record-breaking high temperatures in Western Canada, are bringing new risks and challenges for the nation’s infrastructure.
A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), prepared with support from Infrastructure Canada, makes one thing clear: how we create and maintain our built environment must change.
“These last few weeks have shown us first-hand how climate change can damage the infrastructure in Canada, risking lives and costing billions in repairs,” says Anne Hammill, Senior Director of IISD’s Resilience Program. “We need our municipalities and governments to better incorporate climate change risks into the design, operation, and rehabilitation of our built infrastructure, while also looking more seriously at the benefits of using nature-based solutions.”
Advancing the Climate Resilience of Canadian Infrastructure: A review of literature to inform the way forward profiles the ways in which action is already being taken nationally and internationally through policies, tools, and financing to enable more resilient infrastructure. But greater effort and investments are needed to keep up with the accelerating pace of climate change.
The authors also look at the role of natural infrastructure (a nature-based solution), such as wetlands and living shorelines, in providing a cost-effective way to increase resilience while providing other benefits such as carbon sequestration, species habitat, and recreational spaces.
Among the key messages and areas for action identified:
- One third of core public infrastructure is in poor condition.
- The estimated infrastructure deficit in Canada is between CAD 150 billion and CAD 1 trillion.
- Greater incentives and professional support are needed to integrate climate change considerations into infrastructure design, construction, and maintenance.
- There must be greater awareness of the economic, social, ecological, and protective benefits of hybrid built and natural infrastructure solutions.
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, says, “As the devastation caused by the wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton showed, climate change is already impacting communities across Canada. We need to adapt to a changing climate that is resulting in more frequent flooding, forest fires, droughts, erosion, and thawing permafrost in the North. The federal government is working with Canadians to adapt to a changing climate and to build more resilient communities through investments in climate resilient infrastructure and by using the best available data and best practices in infrastructure adaptation, mitigation, and planning.”