Canada Must Address Rising Costs of Natural Disasters, Says Research Group

By Esteban Duarte | December 8, 2020

Canada should accelerate measures, including financing mechanisms, to help governments, companies and individuals prepare for the rising costs of weather-related disasters, according to a research institute.

The cost of floods, wildfires and other catastrophic events has increased sharply over the past decade. Weather-related disaster costs have equaled 5% to 6% of the country’s annual economic growth since 2010, compared with an average of about 1% prior to that year, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices said in a report released Thursday. The information was based on data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Disaster Database.

There were C$14.5 billion ($11.2 billion) of disaster-related costs from 2010 through 2019, including the wildfires that swept into the oil town of Fort McMurray in 2016. The total in the four previous decades was C$21 billion, including a C$7 billion ice storm that hit eastern Canada in 1998.

“Looking forward, Canada could face much higher and more pervasive costs, both in terms of disasters and other impacts, than those experienced so far,” according to the report written by four institute staff experts including Dave Sawyer, its principal economist.

“Understanding risks and costs is only a starting point; much more work is required to set up the policies, governance, expertise, and financial mechanisms to execute adaptation.”

The report comes as the federal government prepares to introduce a Sustainable Finance Action Council early next year. The group’s mandate will be to make recommendations about steps needed to scale sustainable finance in Canada, according to budget documents released earlier this week.

“The bad news is that climate-change adaptation in Canada is far behind where it needs to be,” the report said. “Weather-related disasters and storms are big and visible sources of climate change risk, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Photograph: In this May 13, 2016 file photo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen look over a burnt out car during a visit to Fort McMurray, Canada, after Alberta’s devastating wildfires, which shut down its oil sands production. Photo credit: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP.

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