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Canada Must Tie Budget 2021 Spending to Community-Based Action: Op-Ed

While the “serious coin” directed to climate action by Canada’s 2021 budget is most welcome, two experts are urging policy-makers at all levels to double down on community-based climate policies that integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The challenge is that money alone will not achieve the country’s new emissions reduction target, write Deborah Harford, co-founder of Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT), and Alison Shaw, research lead on ACT’s Integrated Climate Action for BC Communities Initiative, in a post for Policy Options. 

The authors urge Ottawa to adopt a low-carbon resilience (LCR) approach, with strategic investment in policies and programs that are rooted in what individual communities need as the climate crisis ramps up.

And it is ramping up fast, note Harford and Shaw. “With respect to climate impacts, Canada’s 4,000 or so local governments are currently taking it on the chin, as communities grapple with increasingly severe and costly wildfires, flooding, extreme weather events, and economic hardships.”

While communities are receiving support through mechanisms like the 2017 Investing in Canada Plan and other programs, they need more, the authors. Ottawa’s promised C$8.75 billion in mitigation and adaption funding is a “a good start”, they add, but it “won’t be enough to get on top of the full sweep of risks so long as we continue to dole it out in separate buckets.”

The good news is that Ottawa is “gradually getting the integration memo,” Harford and Shaw write. Adaptation and mitigation are highlighted in both Infrastructure Canada’s Climate Lens program and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. They also cite Budget 2021’s emphasis on nature-based solutions as “an excellent example of the LCR approach.”

Overall, however, “current funding mechanisms do not yet adequately coordinate adaptation and mitigation in data collection, integrated planning, or decision support,” the two authors warn. Such poor coordination leads to “missed opportunities to identify synergies and to streamline effects at the local scale, as well as to unlock social, environmental, and economic co-benefits.”

As one example of the benefits of an effective LCR planning approach, the authors point to the city of Port Moody, British Columbia, which collaborated with adaptation and mitigation consultants during the procurement phase of its climate planning work. By folding two planning processes into one, the community saved “up to 50% of its climate planning budget and as much as a year in process and engagement time.”

And in Gibsons, B.C., “the chief administrative officer is now also designated the chief resilience officer,” an expansion of duties that has left the town “better positioned to respond to community risk and low-carbon development challenges.”

As the funding from Budget 2021 begins to flow into actual projects and programs, the authors ask Canada’s federal policy-makers to adopt LCR principles into their planning. “We urge them to consider the growing body of evidence that well-planned, integrated actions can not only reduce emissions, but also yield more resilient and sustainable communities for everyone,” they write.