Mobilizing Flood Adaptation Solutions

What proactive measures can Intact Financial Corporation (IFC) take to mobilize climate change adaptation solutions with municipal, provincial and federal levels of government in Canada?

This executive summary lays out highlights from the report Mobilizing Flood Adaptation Solutions, written by Max Bell School Master of Public Policy students as part of the 2022 Policy Lab.

Access the summary and presentation below, and read their full report here.

Policy Challenge

This policy brief identifies the actions that the insurance sector can take to mobilize climate adaptation in Canada. Recognizing the broad scope of our challenge, we decided to focus on flooding events because they take lives, disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, disrupt economic activity, and are the costliest extreme weather event in Canada. For instance, in November, flooding in British Columbia (BC) displaced more than 15,000 people and the cost of rebuilding is estimated at over $9 billion.1 The British Columbia floods show how a proper policy response requires a multi-level approach among federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, and municipal governments across Canada.

While flood adaptation solutions exist, their adoption by governments across Canada has been slow. Guidelines have been developed to mitigate flood risk in new residential communities. Investments in retrofits for existing vulnerable structures and commercial real estate are being made. However, governments have rarely accounted for flood risks in their decision-making. For example, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, and municipal governments have not regularly updated land use planning policies to reflect increasing flood risk in a changing climate. In some municipalities in British Columbia, flood maps have not been updated in 20 years.

The insurance sector policy challenge included understanding government attitudes towards climate adaptation and identifying the barriers impeding action. By exploring what other jurisdictions have done and assessing Canada’s adaptation landscape, we have identified a set of barriers to mobilizing climate adaptation solutions and designed a plan to overcome those barriers. This policy brief outlines that plan.

The Policy Window

Canada’s federal government is now aware of the need to develop a more comprehensive adaptation policy. In May 2022, the government of Canada published a discussion paper “Preparing for Climate Change: Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS)” that recognizes the “urgent need for adaptation action”. The NAS is being debated across Canada by several stakeholders and recently the government set up an online platform called “Let’s talk adaptation” to engage more citizens. This process will inform the NAS, which is to be released at the end of the year with guidelines for action over five years. The discussion paper describes the federal government’s vision on climate adaptation as aiming to “promote justice, equity, and Indigenous reconciliation, and secure a thriving environment and economy for future generations”.

This policy brief reviews actions that can help turn these words into reality. It also identifies how the insurance sector can play a leadership role in mobilizing flooding adaptation policies and programs by partnering with other institutions and advocating for policy change. In concrete terms, we believe government action can be mobilized through our set of recommendations to raise flood risk awareness, increase flood adaptation capacity, and accelerate actions for flood mitigation.

List of Recommendations

Section I: Raise Awareness of Flood Risk

1. The insurance sector should advocate to Eric Loubier, Director General of the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to update flood maps, make them available in an online portal, and create informational resources to raise awareness of flood risk.

2. The insurance sector should advocate to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson of Natural Resources Canada for a centralized adaptation dashboard as a tool for the public servants in municipalities to exchange learnings and best practices.

3. The insurance sector should partner with the University of Waterloo in proposing to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson of Natural Resources Canada to develop innovative data visualization tools relating to flood risks. Together, the partnership should organize a “hackathon” challenge to develop virtual reality simulations using various flood maps.

Section II: Increase Capacity for Flood Adaptation

4. The insurance sector should propose to Minister Steven Guilbeault of Environment and Climate Change Canada, a partnership agreement with the Canadian Center for Climate Services (CCCS) that would result in the development and implementation of a capacity-building training program for relevant public servants regarding climate adaptation.

5. The insurance sector should develop and propose a proof of concept for a ‘one-stop-shop’ for managing adaptation funding programs to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson of Natural Resources Canada.

Section III: Accelerate Actions for Flood Mitigation

6. The insurance sector should advocate for regulations within the proposed National Flood Insurance Program to Minister Bill Blair of Emergency Preparedness and Minister Marco Mendicino of Public Safety Canada.

7. The insurance sector should propose to Laniel Bateman, Director of Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience at Environment and Climate Change Canada a change in the federal evaluation framework of climate adaptation. The proposal should enable the federal government to move from cause-effectiveness to a more flexible perspective based on learning for adapting.

8. The insurance sector should outline to Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Minister Steven Guilbeault how Infrastructure Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada can best invest in natural infrastructure. The outline should describe implementation criteria and identify how these departments could partner with Indigenous communities.

Download the full version of this report here.

This Policy Lab was presented by our MPPs on July 11, 2022. Watch the video below:

About the authors:

Munjir AhmedMunjir Ahmed

MPP Class of 2022

Caroline MernerCaroline Merner

MPP Class of 2022

Juan RoaJuan Roa

MPP Class of 2022

Shabbir ShawkutShabbir Shawkut

MPP Class of 2022

See the rest of the 2022 Policy Lab reports


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