Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be here today to discuss my report on adapting to the impacts of climate change, which was tabled in October 2017. I am accompanied by David Normand, the director responsible for this audit.
Before I present the findings of this audit, I wish to take this opportunity to highlight key findings from another one of my fall 2017 reports, which looked at the progress on reducing greenhouse gases.
In that report, we found that Canada had missed all of its reduction targets since 1992 and that it was not on track to meet the 2020 target. The federal government has set new, more difficult targets for 2030, which means extending the timeline.
In December 2016, the government released the newest of its climate change plans—the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Environment and Climate Change Canada has made progress in working with the territories and provinces to develop this new plan to meet the 2030 target. However, the plan remains the latest in a series of plans that have been produced since 1992.
Environment and Climate Change Canada already estimates that even if all the greenhouse gas reduction measures outlined in the new pan-Canadian framework are implemented in a timely manner and result in emissions reductions, more action will be needed to meet the 2030 target.
Canada's climate, as you are all aware, is becoming warmer and wetter, and the impacts, such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidity, and decreasing sea ice and permafrost, pose significant risks to Canadians and the economy.
In our audit on adapting to climate change, we wanted to know whether the federal government was ready to adapt to a changing climate. Overall, we concluded that it is not; however, in the case of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a few other departments, there are a few glimmers of hope.
Environment and Climate Change Canada developed the 2011 “Federal Adaptation Policy Framework”, which is aimed at integrating climate change considerations into programs, policies, and operations. Through this framework, each federal organization is to apply its experience in risk management to the climate change issues that could affect its ability to deliver its mandate.
In this audit on adapting to the impacts of climate change, we looked at whether 19 federal organizations, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, had assessed risks and taken measures to adapt to climate change in their areas of responsibility.
We found that most of the federal departments and agencies we examined did not take appropriate measures in order to achieve this. We also found that Environment and Climate Change Canada, in collaboration with other federal partners, did not provide adequate leadership to advance the federal government's adaptation to climate change impacts.
We are happy to report, however, that Fisheries and Oceans Canada was one of the five departments that did complete comprehensive risk assessments and integrated adaptation into its programs and activities.
For example, in 2005 Fisheries and Oceans Canada identified the greatest risks to its mandate, and in 2012 it refined its analysis: two times it had done risk assessments. Some of the risks they identified included potential negative impacts on ecosystems and fish stocks, the safety and accessibility of waterways, as well as impacts on infrastructure, such as small craft harbours and Canadian Coast Guard assets.
We also found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada was one of the five departments that made progress in responding to the climate change risks they had identified. Through its aquatic climate change adaptation services program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted 38 research projects and developed 22 adaptation tools to monitor and study the impacts of climate change on Canada's fisheries, aquatic ecosystems, coastlines, and coastal infrastructure.
For instance, to address the high risks it identified to the 750 core commercial fishing harbours it manages, the department, among other things, developed two web-based adaptation tools to manage potential infrastructure damage from climate change impacts.
The first is the Canadian extreme water level adaptation tool, which provides future projections of sea level rise. The second is the coastal infrastructure vulnerability index, which combines environmental, harbour engineering, and socio-economic data into a measure of harbour vulnerability to climate change impacts. This helps engineers and managers plan where best to invest in adaptation projects.
One example of the way the Canadian extreme water level adaptation tool can be applied was seen at Margaree Harbour in Nova Scotia. Rising sea levels and increasing storm surges compromised harbour infrastructure. In 2010 the wharf was breached, and much of the facility was under water. Using information provided by the tool, the department raised the wharf by seven-tenths of a metre in 2016 to accommodate projected sea level rise over the structure's operational lifetime.
Risks from climate change cannot be completely eliminated; however, vulnerabilities can be reduced by taking measures to adapt, such as the measures we have seen with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Other departments also see that it can be done.
Adaptation is about making informed, forward-looking decisions to manage the risks that climate change presents and to take advantage of new opportunities. Strong and sustained leadership from the federal government is essential because the cost of inaction is estimated to greatly exceed the cost of taking action.
Lastly, I will take this opportunity to mention two audit reports that I will present to Parliament this spring and that could be of interest to this committee: one is on salmon farming, and the other is on conserving biodiversity. In those audits, we checked to see whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made progress in meeting the 2020 biodiversity targets on protected areas and species at risk. I would be happy to appear before your committee to discuss the findings of these reports after they are tabled.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening statement. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.