Canada to invest C$1.6 billion in first national climate adaptation strategy

By Nia Williams

(Reuters) -Canada published its first ever national climate adaptation strategy on Thursday, including C$1.6 billion ($1.2 billion) in new federal funding commitments to help protect communities against the increasing impacts of global warming.

Like many countries around the world, Canada is seeing a rise in extreme weather caused by climate change, with average annual losses from disasters forecast to reach C$15.4 billion by 2030, according to the government.

The goal of the adaptation strategy is to help reduce those losses with federal policy and investment. Research shows that every dollar spent on adaptation measures saves up to C$15 in costs, including both direct and indirect economy-wide benefits, the government said.

"The fight against climate change has reached our doorstep. We must not only reduce the emissions that cause climate change, we must also adapt to the changes that are upon us," federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement.

Canada is the world's fourth-largest oil producer and the second-highest carbon emitter among the Group of 20 major economies on a per capita basis, according to research from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR).

Implementing new flooding and wildfire standards for new construction, for example, could save Canada an estimated C$4.7 billion a year, according to the statement, while urban forests in the city of Toronto have lowered cooling costs, improved air quality, and reduced strains on stormwater infrastructure.

The strategy focuses on five priorities: improving health, building and maintaining resilient public infrastructure, protecting nature and biodiversity, supporting the economy, and reducing the impact of climate-related disasters.

The C$1.6 billion in new funding takes Ottawa's total spending earmarked for adaptation and resilience to more than C$8 billion.

The federal government spent two years consulting on the strategy with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous groups, which will now have 90 days to comment.

The Canadian Climate Institute (CCI), a think tank, said the move represents a major step forward, but it still needs more detail on how the overall goals of the strategy address Canada's biggest climate risks, and processes for coordinating action plans are unclear.

"This new strategy gives us a fighting chance to staunch the bleeding," said CCI president Rick Smith. "While there is still more to do to ensure this strategy drives meaningful progress, its implementation will help Canada prepare for the threats ahead."

($1 = 1.3332 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia, editing by Steve Scherer and Sandra Maler)