January 13, 2022

Building a Resilient Canada

The Expert Panel on Disaster Resilience in a Changing Climate

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Around the world, disasters are becoming more frequent and severe ― a trend that is only expected to intensify as the climate changes in the coming decades. While floods and wildfires are among the most common disaster types in Canada, this country is susceptible to a wide range of hazards, including extremes of both hot and cold, droughts, winter storms, freezing rain, tornadoes, avalanches, and landslides.

In a future with more extreme weather events, the resilience of individuals, communities, and infrastructure will be tested. The decisions made today will determine the extent to which society will be able to prepare for, avoid, and recover from a range of disasters. While often described as natural disasters, the reality is that disasters result from the interactions between communities and naturally occurring hazards and are largely the consequences of human choices that put people in harm’s way.

Current risk management approaches may be insufficient to prepare for future disasters, particularly where hazards overlap. Integrated approaches have potential to be more impactful, stretching limited resources further. Building a Resilient Canada examines current practices and emerging actions to reduce vulnerability and exposure to natural hazards through the integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR). These actions are diverse but rest on a common foundation of accessible and up-to-date information, sufficient funding and insurance incentives, and coordinated and collaborative governance.

The Sponsor:

Public Safety Canada

The Question:

What key opportunities exist to improve disaster resilience in Canada through better integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation research and practice?

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The Panel explored a wide range of evidence and examples of governments and other actors seeking to improve resiliency to climate-related hazards by better integrating adaptation and DRR. Whether it is cities mandating urban greening to reduce the effects of heat waves and urban flooding, investors calling for enhanced climate risk disclosures, or public disaster relief programs encouraging rebuilding in ways that will better withstand future hazards, there are many ways that adaptation and DRR can be more effectively integrated to reduce risks. Canadian governments and communities can learn from initiatives abroad, though differences in context may make it necessary to tailor policies, practices, or programs to local circumstances.

Reflecting on the complete range of evidence reviewed and expert perspectives brought by Panel members, the main insights that emerged from this Panel’s work are summarized in the following findings.

Report Findings

  • An ongoing failure to fully integrate climate change adaptation into DRR activities, policies, and tools reduces the efficiency and impact of public investments in disaster resilience, leaving Canadian communities at risk.
  • Successfully integrating adaptation and DRR requires overcoming barriers such as disciplinary and departmental silos, conceptual and terminological differences, and jurisdictional misalignments while accounting for perceptions and cognitive biases that affect decision-making.
  • The integration of adaptation and DRR requires a combination of i) information systems adapted to the needs of decision-makers and ii) flexible funding, financing, and insurance arrangements that support proactive investment.
  • Whole-of-society collaboration as well as government mandates are necessary to operationalize integration.

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on Disaster Resilience in a Changing Climate