Canada needs to accelerate work on climate defence - IBC | Insurance Business Canada
The Canadian government is soon to unveil its national climate adaptation strategy. The multi-year plan, which will be unveiled before the COP27 international climate conference in Egypt next month, has been billed as a major step towards protecting its citizens from the growing perils associated with climate change.
But for Climate Proof Canada, such talk will be “too little, too late” unless the plan includes short-term targets and measures to protect people from escalating floods, wildfires, and extreme heat. To date, government officials have proposed “vague and distant” goals, without addressing the longer-term impacts of climate change, the coalition said.
Climate Proof Canada is comprised of nearly 30 private and civil organizations, including insurers, disaster relief organizations, municipalities, indigenous groups, and academic leaders.
Some of Canada’s most prominent insurance companies have joined the calls for a stronger national climate adaptation strategy. Climate Proof Canada includes Aon, Aviva, Desjardins, Intact Financial Corporation, Travelers, Sun Life Financial, Wawanesa, and Zurich Canada, among others.
“Canada’s share of global emissions is under 2%, yet we are experiencing some of the most damaging effects of climate change. The federal government urgently needs to accelerate work on climate defence,” said Craig Stewart (pictured), vice president of federal affairs at the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). The IBC is also among the coalition’s members.
Read more: Hurricane Fiona highlights gaps in insurance as climate change worsens, experts say
Climate Proof Canada is calling for the national adaptation strategy to focus on realistic goals through a series of five-year action plans spanning 25 years. Each five-year plan should be designed to drive collective efforts towards clear and specific targets. The strategy’s objectives should also be established in consultation with provinces, territories, and indigenous peoples.
The unveiling of a national plan to address climate change comes weeks after Hurricane Fiona lashed Atlantic provinces with heavy rains and strong winds. Dubbed one of the worst storms of hit Canada, Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia and swept homes into the sea and cut power for thousands of households. At least three people were killed during the storm’s onslaught.
DBRS Morningstar estimated costs from Hurricane Fiona at between CA$300 million and CA$700 million in insured losses. Fiona’s financial toll stands starkly against $2.1 billion in insurance damages for several weather events across all of Canada last year.
The costs will continue to climb if no concrete action is made to mitigate the risks of extreme flooding, Stewart warned. Flooding has surpassed forest fires as the top cause of property damage in Canada in the past several years, costing property owners over $1 billion in losses annually. The number of uninsurable homes in Canada due to climate change has also reached 10%, according to industry figures.
“Flood insurance is just one of the tools for climate resiliency. Insurers advocate that it be part of a broader effort to reduce climate risk across the country,” Stewart told Insurance Business.
Read more: What Canadian homeowners need to know about flood insurance
When it comes to extreme heat, Stewart said the national strategy should account for vulnerable sectors, particularly those living in low-income and multi-residential areas. Last year’s unprecedented heat waves caused 619 deaths in British Columbia alone, according to the government, with 98% of them occurring indoors.
According to Climate Proof Canada, any national adaptation strategy should be focused on risk, vulnerability, and exposure. It advocates a risk-based approach to mitigate the climate-related hazards people experience today, while addressing the longer-term impacts in the decades to come. The coalition also urged the government to prioritize climate adaptation efforts for the most vulnerable communities, including Canada’s indigenous population.
When asked why the insurance industry has joined forces under Climate Proof Canada, Stewart said: “Our organizations are paying for the risks of these natural catastrophes, and we see firsthand the tremendous impact and devastation of these events in the communities that we live, work in, and serve. Beyond that, climate resilience is just something many of us are deeply passionate about.”
Marking the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness, Bill Blair, pledged to continue working to make communities more resilient.
“We are also working to enhance whole-of-society collaboration in these efforts through the development of Canada’s first national adaptation strategy, the creation of a low-cost national flood insurance program, and by partnering with non-governmental organizations to bolster our humanitarian workforce through funding to train and recruit personnel who can mobilize quickly in response to large-scale emergencies,” Blair said in a statement.