British Columbia launches strategy to protect communities from climate change

The provincial government says the strategy is supported by spending of more than $500 million over the next three years.

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The BC government has released its first climate adaptation strategy, intended to provide a plan to protect communities from increased extreme heat, wildfires and flooding.

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The provincial government said Monday the strategy was backed by more than $500 million in spending over the next three years, but critics say the plan fails to recognize the true scale and costs of climate impacts in British Columbia. British.

“Anyone who experienced it last summer and fall in British Columbia knows that our province is on the front lines of the climate crisis,” said British Columbia’s Minister of Environment, George Heyman. “That is why we are taking coordinated action across all departments to be better prepared this year, next year and in the future.”

The bulk of the spending – much of it already announced earlier in this year’s budget – is intended to help communities, including First Nations, strengthen flood protection and reduce the risk of forest fire through assessment, planning and small projects.

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But the plan delays the completion of a crucial provincial flood strategy until next year, as well as a flood resilience plan that would address the need for new dikes until 2025.

The strategy sets few other targets and timelines or indicates how much would need to be spent to properly protect communities from the increased effects of climate change, including the catastrophic floods that hit communities like Abbotsford, Princeton and Merritt last November.

Last year, 46,000 people had to be evacuated due to deadly wildfires and floods in British Columbia, some of whom are still displaced. Homes, roads and bridges have been destroyed and people have died in the disasters.

West Coast Environmental Law, a British Columbia-based group that supports environmental prosecutions, said the strategy was a long-overdue milestone, including a requirement to report annually on progress.

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“The BC government is likely doing what it sees as politically feasible – and we recognize that the government has strengthened its plan from last year’s draft – but that will not be enough to avert future climate disasters. “said West Coast attorney Andrew Gage. .

He pointed to Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that local governments across Canada would collectively need to spend $5.3 billion each year to prepare for the effects of climate change.

Based on population, BC communities are expected to spend more than $700 million a year, according to these estimates.

The need for increased spending was underscored by a Postmedia survey released last month that found the government’s efforts have fallen short of what is needed to properly protect BC communities. against an expected increase in floods and wildfires fueled by climate change.

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The investigation determined that the cost of increased flood and wildfire protection was at least $13 billion. The cost is certainly much higher since only a third of the 75 communities surveyed had a detailed and costed flood protection plan, and the analysis does not cover the entire province.

Asked about the need to spend significantly more to increase the climate resilience of communities, Heyman pointed to existing government funding and said adaptation efforts will continue to be funded on an annual basis.

“We take this incredibly seriously. We are working as quickly as possible to do everything we can to protect British Columbians,” Heyman said Monday.

Other elements of the strategy include increased floodplain mapping, but there is no timeline for this work or amount to be spent.

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The strategy also includes nature-based solutions such as watershed restoration, for which $30 million has been earmarked, as well as improved weather data and forecasting.

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau noted that the strategy lacks concrete targets and timelines and makes no mention of species at risk or biodiversity legislation.

“Today’s step is positive, but the BC NDP needs to address key gaps in its plan if we are serious about keeping communities across the province safe,” Furstenau said.

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