Ontario launches first-ever climate change impact assessment

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Climate Risk Institute has been hired to conduct the Ontario’s first-ever multi-sector climate change impact assessment.

The study will “use the best science and information to better understand where and how climate change is likely to affect communities, critical infrastructure, economies and the natural environment, while helping to strengthen the province’s resilience to the impacts of climate change,” the Ontario government said in a media release.

“We developed Ontario’s Flooding Strategy to protect people and property from flooding impacts. This assessment will provide greater insight into climate trends across the province, which will help enhance flood preparedness and keep people safe,” said John Yakabuski, minister of natural resources and forestry.

The Institute will also review a variety of information such as climate data, land use patterns and socio-economic projections. They will also develop an engagement plan to ensure the final assessment reflects the views and perspectives of Indigenous communities, municipalities, key economic sectors and the public.

The assessment will be conducted over the next two years and it is anticipated that the final results will be released in 2022.

“Our government is committed to tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions and helping communities and families prepare for the effects of our changing climate,” said Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks.

“I look forward to receiving the results of Ontario’s first-ever climate change impact assessment, which will help the province, municipalities, Indigenous communities and local partners make more informed decisions on planning and infrastructure investments to keep communities healthy and safe.”

The climate change impact assessment is a key component of the province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to taking the next steps in the provincial impact assessment, last year Ontario also established an advisory panel to provide the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks with advice on the implementation of the province’s climate change actions – especially how Ontarians can prepare for the costs and impacts of climate change.

The Ontario provincial climate change impact assessment will

  • evaluate climate change impacts at a provincial scale, as well as focus analysis at a regional scale that takes into account the unique geographies, economies, municipalities and communities of those regions.
  • examine the impacts on a number of key themes, including infrastructure, food and agriculture, people and communities, natural resources, ecosystems and the environment, and business and the economy.
  • ensure that municipalities have access to the most up-to-date information about the regional impacts their communities will be facing, now and into the future.

Ontario’s climate is changing, with more frequent and extreme events such as severe rain, ice and wind storms, prolonged heat waves and milder winters.

In 2018, insured damage for severe weather events across Canada reached $1.9 billion.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that for every dollar paid out in insurance claims for homes and businesses, Canadian governments pay out $3 to recover public infrastructure damaged by severe weather.

Ontario has also finalized an emissions performance standards program for large, industrial emitters to ensure polluters are accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions and proposed to begin transition to higher renewable content in gasoline in the coming years, without increasing prices at the pump.

“Rigorous assessment of risk is an essential foundation for sustained, effective improvement in resilience to flooding, severe weather and other extreme climate events. The Government of Ontario’s provincial climate change impact assessment is an important and welcome step forward toward the building of climate resilience across the province,” said Paul Kovacs, chair of the advisory panel on climate change.

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