Press release

IISD Welcomes Environment Commissioner’s Call for Canada to Build Climate Resilience

May 31, 2016

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) welcomes a new series of reports from the Office of Auditor General of Canada that call for urgent action by the federal government to support resiliency to climate change.

“Canada must build resilient buildings, roads, bridges, water and sewage facilities, and transportation networks so that we can move around, work, keep the economy going, and live in vibrant and healthy communities,” writes Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. “When resiliency is built into infrastructure, it is also built into communities as they are then better equipped to recover more quickly when disasters strike.”

The reports recommend a suite of resiliency policies, including updating the National Building Code, investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, and ensuring that infrastructure projects identify and manage climate risks.

“We welcome Commissioner Gelfand’s leadership in calling for swift action in Canada to manage climate risks to protect Canadian communities,” said Anne Hammill, Director of IISD’s Resilience Program. “Following through on the Commissioner’s recommendations to build climate-resilient infrastructure and prepare for extreme weather would be important steps towards a strong national adaptation strategy.”

The report cites a Public Safety Canada estimate that every dollar invested in disaster mitigation saves $3 to $5 in recovery costs. It also found that Canada’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program has had to spend more in disaster recovery funding in the past 6 fiscal years than in its first 39 fiscal years combined.  

Gelfand’s reports find that the federal government “has not put in place all the elements that are required to ensure that climate change considerations are effectively integrated into infrastructure and disaster mitigation programs, policies, and operations.”

Jo-Ellen Parry, a senior climate adaptation researcher with IISD’s Resilience Program, commented on the new reports: “There are concrete actions we can take to protect our towns and cities against risks associated with climate change. The federal government has a vital role in averting climate risks, and Gelfand’s recommendations to support better disaster mitigation through initiatives such as updating floodplains maps are timely. There are also pressing process-based changes we need, such as improving communications, monitoring and data access in a manner that reflects decision-makers needs.”

Anika Terton, a researcher with IISD’s Resilience and Energy Programs who has worked on climate change mitigation strategies, said: “Recent changes to federal policy could make it harder for communities to rebuild after disaster strikes by placing a heavier financial burden on provincial governments.

“New rules enacted in February 2015 dramatically raise the threshold for when federal assistance kicks in. Federal and provincial disaster financial assistance rules also discourage communities from preparing for the next disaster,” added Terton.

“Current regulations are based on historical frequency of extreme events. But the past is no longer a predictor of the future, and if the size or frequency of a climate event is changing then communities will need infrastructure built to a new standard.”

The Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner’s 2016 spring reports are available on the Office of the Auditor General’s website.

Please contact Christian Ledwell at or (613) 778-8767 ex.106 to arrange for an interview with one of our experts.


About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.

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