Weeks away from Canada’s first federal budget announcement following a natural disaster-ridden year, governments and private investors will need to collaborate to fund climate adaptation and prevention at the municipal level, a Globe and Mail op ed asserts.
“Clearly, we need to invest in climate resiliency – but who will pay for it?” ask Ron Wesseling, president and CEO of The Co-operators Group Limited, and Don Iveson, former mayor of Edmonton.
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Wesseling and Iveson expect the new budget to add to the C$1.4 billion committed for disaster mitigation and adaptation in 2021, adding that investing to prevent disasters is a financially savvy move.
“There is a strong case to be made that each dollar invested in disaster prevention strategies can save six dollars while creating jobs in the process,” they write, citing figures from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Those savings will be critical if unchecked disaster expenses rise to the $5 billion a year anticipated by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer.
But government funding can only stretch so far, and the two authors say the scale of the challenge will exceed federal capacity as adaptation costs rise into the tens of billions.
“Against all the other pressures facing Canadians, we cannot responsibly ask the taxpayers to carry the full financial burden of making our country more resilient,” they say. “That’s why private investors will surely need to play a role.”
Wesseling and Iveson point to the US$130 trillion in assets institutional investors have committed to aligning with net-zero emissions plans, reflecting “a broad societal consensus for climate change mitigation by regulating and pricing greenhouse gas pollution”. They say collaboration by governments and investors could channel some of those resources towards mobilizing a “massive investment in community resilience.”
Cities are already demonstrating their capability in responding to the climate crisis. After severe storms exposed flaws in Edmonton’s sewer system, Iveson and Wesseling say, the city designed and prioritized a $1.6-billion package of flood defences to protect hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
But more funding is required to replicate, scale, and deploy such responses across the country. “There is more work than money on the table, and we need to muster enormous creativity, partnership, and investment to rise to this challenge,” they write.
The tricky part will be quantifying the benefits of resiliency investments, which can accumulate nationally or locally, publicly or privately. But Wesseling and Iveson say creative and committed collaboration “across public and private sectors, and across all orders of government, including Indigenous leadership” can help create solutions.
“Complex problems demand collaborative solutions,” they write. “This will require unprecedented partnerships. We urge the federal government to use Budget 2022 to prioritize policy and investment that can protect the future of all Canadians.”