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Near-term Steps

Building on the strong knowledge base summarized in the preceding chapters of this assessment, there are a number of potential steps that could help ensure that adaptation continues to move forward in Canada.


All chapters of this assessment conclude that a wide range of actors are involved in climate change adaptation (see also Table 2). In addition to implementing adaptation actions, community groups, industry and professional organizations, and all orders of government can help strengthen adaptive capacity.

Given the broad range of actors involved, recognition and articulation of the roles and responsibilities of each would facilitate co-operation. There is also likely to be a need for appropriate mechanisms to facilitate effective co-ordination and collaboration. Such steps form part of the development of a strategic approach to adaptation. Where adaptation is built onto existing activities, it will likely be clear who will carry out the adaptation measures or policies in question, under what authority they will act and how the costs will be distributed. Where new initiatives on adaptation are required, the situation might be more complex. Clarification of the responsibilities of individuals, industries and various orders of government will facilitate new and planned action on adaptation. Some evolution of responsibilities may need to occur as the need for adaptation to climate change becomes more apparent and more urgent.


Leaders, innovators and early adopters exist within all segments of Canadian society. With respect to climate change adaptation, federal and provincial governments have provided much of the leadership with respect to research and networking, while some industries, municipalities and professional organizations have led the way in implementation of adaptation measures or at least preparing to adapt. This leadership conveys to others the importance of adaptation and the benefits that can be gained through action.

This leadership could be enhanced through a more strategic approach to adaptation. Many governments and non-government organizations would benefit from undertaking reviews of existing policies and programs to assess their vulnerability to climate change, and their ability to facilitate adaptation. Such analyses have been undertaken in the United Kingdom (e.g. Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2003) and could serve as a model for other governments concerned with climate change impacts. Similarly, industry and businesses would benefit from a review of how climate change is likely to influence their operations, planning processes and competitiveness in terms of trade and market share. Such reviews would identify areas for more detailed examination, and ultimately lead to revision of climate-sensitive operations, programs and policies that will enhance their sustainability under a changing climate.


There is now a diffuse and generally unco-ordinated flow of information and advice with respect to climate change adaptation from several government agencies, the scientific community and others. Enhancing institutional capacity could help shape a more coherent and user-friendly process that would allow Canadians to access the most authoritative information about how climate change will affect them in their own businesses and localities, and to engage the appropriate expertise in discussion about adaptation options. Examples of new institutions developed to help address this gap in Canada include the Ouranos Consortium (Quebec), the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative and the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium. There is also significant opportunity to enhance the capacity within existing institutions to provide information and guidance on adaptation. For example, agricultural extension services, public health authorities, water management authorities and many other such services could factor climate change into the guidance they provide.


In some circumstances, more than information and guidance may be required to move forward on adaptation action. This may be especially true where extra costs are involved, or where institutional or other barriers exist. In such circumstances, governments and industries may wish to take further action, such as the provision of incentives or penalties. For example, water rates could be modified for different users, and improvements in water-use efficiency could be promoted and rewarded. Insurance may also have a role to play in facilitating adaptive behaviour. A range of market-type instruments can be used to promote and persuade people to move towards effective adaptation within various sectors. In circumstances where climate change presents significant risks to the security and safety of Canadians, it may be appropriate to mandate or require adaptation actions. Prominent among these needs is the importance of ensuring that construction of buildings and other infrastructure is robust to the changes in climate, including extreme weather risks.

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