In the face of the recent release of the IPCC 6th Assessment Report (AR6 Climate Change 2021), and the unprecedented heat waves and wildfires in Western Canada, the federal government has released a new report, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change in Canada: an update on the National Adaptation Strategy. The report is part of the federal government’s commitment (December 2020) to develop Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy. Phase I of this process (2021) focuses on “developing the broad parameters of a National Adaptation Strategy, including aspirational goals and concrete objectives.” In 2022 they have committed to widespread engagement and delivering a NAS by the end of the year. It is absolutely worth reading this latest report, which outlines some of the commitments and broad strokes that will guide the NAS development, but it is also instructive to read another recent report produced by the The International Institute for Sustainable Development .

Toward a National Adaptation Strategy for Canada: Key insights from global peers provides a comprehensive and insightful overview of the context for NAS, and some of the key issues and considerations that should inform the development of NAS. The report provides an overview of what is happening internationally – the global progress in adaptation planning – and draws on the key insights and good practices of the international experience to present 13 “mutually reinforcing considerations to inform” the development and implementation of NAS.

As this paper suggests, and as is confirmed by the IPCC report and by our lived experience of the escalating and compounding impacts of climate change (see current wildfire activity in BC), there is an urgent need for Canada to catch up and get its “national house in order” when it comes to climate adaptation. It’s not only imperative for the country if we are to avoid the unmanageable and be prepared to manage the unavoidable, but it is also an opportunity for Canada to step up and be a leader in adaptation.

To date, here and elsewhere in the world, the focus and the funding has been primarily focused on climate mitigation (reducing GHG emissions and shifting to green energy), and this focus needs to continue. We have to accelerate and amplify our commitments and actions to eliminate GHG emissions! However, we also need to take action to prepare for and adapt to the impacts that are already locked in by our rapidly warming atmosphere.

There is a huge adaptation gap and in the face of escalating risks and impacts, now is the time to invest in addressing that gap. We need an equity-informed national adaptation strategy that outlines pathways forward for just and equitable climate resilience; that supports immediate investments nationally and provincially/territorially in climate-resilient infrastructure, water management, and nature-based strategies for managing climate risks. We need a strategy that outlines not only the policies but the implementation plans and the investments necessary to ensure implementation. We need immediate and sustained action on climate adaptation!

With a federal election looming, and as #climateaction leaders, we need to read these reports, and hold candidates in all parties accountable to ensuring that the NAS positions Canada as a leader on adaptation, not rhetorically but in practice.

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