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Economic Instruments Can Boost Canada’s Climate Adaptation: Think Tank

Ryan L. C. Quan/wikimedia commons
Ryan L. C. Quan/wikimedia commons

Canada needs to rely more heavily on economic instruments to motivate necessary adaptation to climate change, the Ottawa-based think tank Sustainable Prosperity argues in a new report addressing all three levels of government.

“Some of these economic instruments rely heavily on markets and work by setting an explicit price on an activity – such as the case with fees, taxes or markets,” the think tank notes. The report considers the possibility of withdrawing or redesigning disaster relief to “incentivize individual responsibility for adaptation actions.”

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The group’s Tooling Up for Climate Change recommends actions on the part of the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to address climate adaptation priorities in four fields: forestry, infrastructure, real estate, and ecosystems. In general, it envisions the federal government undertaking more adaptation-related research and promotion, while more direct actions are left to provinces and cities.

Federal efforts to help the forest sector adapt, for instance, should focus on research into ways to modify fire suppression tactics in a changing climate, while provinces work with forest licence holders and First Nations to equitably distribute climate risk.

The report calls on provinces to help their municipalities borrow for climate adaptation and infrastructure resilience investments. It also urges they adopt “less complex legal arrangements” to encourage more public-private partnerships in adaptation investments. Provinces should also “assess the continued appropriateness of existing provincially administered Disaster Financial Assistance funding formulas in order to explore potential allocations that incentivize individual responsibility for adaptation actions.”

“Economic instruments offer more flexible alternatives to command and control approaches,” the report argues, “providing more efficient and cost-effective ways of incentivizing adaptation actions.”

In a lengthy report released in 2014, Natural Resources Canada acknowledged that national climate adaptation plans needed “more work.”