Canada can learn from these two provinces on climate action

When it comes to adapting to climate change and disasters, the rest of Canada can learn a lesson or two from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

A new report from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) on Canada’s ability to prepare for extreme weather events has highlighted a number of successes, including in Nova Scotia.

In 2013, the provincial government directed all municipalities to develop a climate change action plan in order to access federal gas tax funding. It was a unique and effective approach to kick-starting climate action, said David Righter, an environmental planner whose thesis examined Nova Scotia’s coastal adaptation planning.

“Many municipalities across Canada have created plans, but this is the only instance where the province has actually required those plans to be completed,” Righter said. “That was really the main underlying factor in their success.”

The province has supported municipalities with workshops, webinars, research projects and basic science information. This served as the starting point for plans, including a study of the climate risks a community faces and what adaptation measures are of high priority.

Righter’s 2021 thesis study found nearly 75% of actions have been implemented to some degree, which he said is evidence of the success of the province’s strategy.

His study found that the actions most likely to be taken were related to emergency preparedness, such as defining evacuation routes, developing communications and alerts, and securing backup power. . Land use planning that restricts construction and protects wetlands or plans to move structures away from shorelines are most often underway.

Other actions include modifying construction guidelines, carrying out risk studies, raising people’s awareness of local risks or installing dykes and berms.

The District Municipality of Digby is a Righter community identified as high performing, successfully blending adaptation, mitigation and reduction.

The municipality, home to the Bay of Fundy and some of the highest tides in the world, is taking steps to harness wave energy.

Tidal power can be considered climate mitigation because it moves away from using fossil fuels by harnessing renewable energy, Righter said. “It also works well with emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction because if you’re able to generate power locally, you’re not as reliant on the province’s power grid…s ‘there is a major storm,’ he added.

Rising sea levels and increased heat fueling wildfire risks are two of the key vulnerabilities emerging from Digby’s adaptation plan, said Terry Thibodeau, renewable energy coordinator at the municipality that participated in the plans.

Another key step taken by Digby was installing five weather stations in the district to monitor sea level rise, tides, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, precipitation and more, Thibodeau said. .

Residents and fishermen use the information in their daily lives, and provincial and federal governments have the ability to use some of the information from weather stations, he said.

This type of information forms the basis of predictive modeling, which informs adaptation decisions such as planting seagrass in certain areas to slow the tides. But more advanced data collection methods are needed for predictive modeling, and implementing any action item requires money.

“In our case, we are a small municipal unit. We’re strapped for cash, we don’t have the cash at our disposal that some of these other large municipal units would have,” Thibodeau said.

Righter said his study found this to be a barrier across the board – even the wealthiest municipalities cited lack of funding as a barrier to their plans.

Thibodeau thinks linking adaptation planning to funding could encourage municipalities across Canada to create comprehensive plans like his municipality did in 2013.

“It’s hard to stimulate municipal units when everyone is so preoccupied with cleaning the sidewalks and running the sewage plant, because if your toilets are clogged, climate change is a failure,” he said. he declares.

Another success story that could apply across the country is in New Brunswick. In 2002, the provincial government declared the wetlands protected, which halted the development of the floodplains.

Protecting these coastal marshes prevents people from moving into areas at risk of flooding and provides other benefits such as storm surge and flood mitigation, reduced erosion and improved the biodiversity.

Similarly, Nova Scotia is consulting on Coastal Protection Act regulations, which will protect sensitive coastal ecosystems and limit how close to water people can build.

According to the CCA report, land use regulations, such as New Brunswick’s protected wetlands, are important tools for adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

In response to the January 13 report, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair released a joint statement acknowledging the need to better integrate climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to deal with future climate-related disasters.

“Over the past two years, we have supported Canadians during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and through the historic and devastating effects of climate-related disasters. During this time, it has become even clearer that there is a need for stronger collaboration and partnerships, alongside a more comprehensive all-hazards risk assessment to inform emergency management decisions,” the statement read.

Developing Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy, advancing flood hazard mapping in high-risk areas, and creating a Flood Insurance and Relocation Task Force are some of the eight measures listed in the statement that the government is pursuing.

Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May said while adaptation is often seen as a long-term endeavor, the “long-term” steps we take now will be essential less than a year from now when the season fires will happen.

“Many of the things that we should be doing to adapt to climate crisis events that we can no longer avoid are also helpful in mitigating by increasing sequestration and they are also helpful for biodiversity,” May said.

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