What northern supports are in Canada’s new climate strategy?


A $41-million program to help coastal and northern communities is included in a newly announced $1.6-billion federal commitment toward climate change adaptation.

Federal ministers announced the funding at a Prince Edward Island news conference as they unveiled Canada’s first national climate change adaptation strategy.

The strategy outlines overarching goals to better prepare and adapt to climate change across the country, and comes with a five-year action plan.  

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That plan also includes money to help communities fight wildfires and develop updated flood hazard maps – both concerns in the NWT – and a top-up for a federal disaster mitigation fund that various communities in the territory have already sought to access.

The action plan promises up to $41 million for a Climate Resilient Coastal and Northern Communities Program. The new initiative is designed to help communities work with partners to address knowledge gaps and develop solutions to climate change risks, such as sea level rise, coastal erosion and permafrost thaw.

In addition, the plan allocates $62 million to enhancing existing programs that support community-led adaptation, including Climate Change Preparedness in the North, a program that funds projects in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.

“Our government is continuing its work in collaboration with northern and Indigenous communities to support community-led initiatives to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” Dan Vandal, the federal northern affairs minister, said in a press release.

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Already, climate change is costing Canadian lives and billions in damages. Insured losses for catastrophic events amounted to more than $18 billion between 2010 and 2019, according to a Canadian Climate Institute report.

“The fight against climate change has reached our doorstep. We must not only reduce the emissions that cause climate change, we must also adapt to the changes that are upon us,” Steven Guilbeault, the federal environment and climate change minister, said in Thursday’s press release.

In the North, where warming is occurring faster than anywhere else in Canada, climate change is a “daily, lived reality,” the national adaptation strategy reports. The document also notes that unique circumstances in the North will require unique solutions.

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The strategy – which follows two years of engagement with governments, Indigenous representatives and experts across the country – is intended to provide a vision of what climate resilience should look like in Canada.

Although climate change is affecting Canadians in diverse ways and various actors have already begun adaptation work, the strategy aims to coordinate a more unified approach. It sets out common goals to guide action on five systems of society: disaster resilience, heath and wellbeing, nature and biodiversity, infrastructure, and the economy and workers.

Goals listed in the strategy include reducing the number of people impacted by extreme events, preparing the health system to manage increased demand brought on by climate impacts, and incorporating climate change into infrastructure decisions.

Although the strategy focuses on high-level, long-term goals, the accompanying action plan sets out how the federal government will support that vision over the next five years.

The plan lists roughly 70 actions, including investing up to $284 million to reduce the risk of wildfire in communities, up to $164 million to ensure that all Canadians have access to flood hazard maps, and up to $489.1 million to top up a federal disaster mitigation and adaptation fund.

The national adaptation strategy and action plan can be found online. National Indigenous organizations, provinces and territories have a final 90-day period in which to comment on the strategy.