Climate change could cost billions in additional building maintenance: report

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A new report says maintaining public buildings, including government buildings, hospitals and schools, will cost provincial and municipal governments an extra $6 billion by 2030 due to climate change. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)
A new report says maintaining public buildings, including government buildings, hospitals and schools, will cost provincial and municipal governments an extra $6 billion by 2030 due to climate change. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)

Climate change could cost Ontario's provincial and municipal governments up to $116 billion by the end of this century, according to a new report from the province's accountability officer.

In a stable climate, the province's maintenance costs would be $10 billion a year, amounting to about $799 billion by 2100. But the report shows the changing climate could drive costs up dramatically.

In the short term, the report found the effects of climate change will add about $6 billion to maintenance costs between now and 2030.

"The bottom line is … climate change is happening. It's having an impact now on public infrastructure," said Peter Weltman, Ontario's Financial Accountability Officer, at a Tuesday morning press conference.

In the longer term, a medium emissions scenario — in which global emissions peak in the 2040s and decline thereafter — is expected to cost an additional $66 billion in building maintenance by the end of the century. That's about $800 million per year on average.

Donna Lypchuk/Canadian Press
Donna Lypchuk/Canadian Press

In a high emissions scenario, where global emissions continue to increase, it's expected to cost an additional $116 billion by 2100 — about $1.5 billion per year on average.

The report identified three main climate hazards that affect the costs of building maintenance. Increases in extreme heat and more extreme rainfall increase the costs, while declining free-thaw cycles modestly reduce them.

Weltman said this report will provide policy makers with solid information when it comes to making decisions about infrastructure.

"It'll allow folks that are managing assets or investing in assets, governments, to have a baseline against which to start to do some options analysis and cost-benefit analysis, " he said. "And the numbers are solid."

The Financial Accountability Office also explored the potential impact of updating Ontario's buildings to withstand climate hazards and found that broad adaptation strategies would only save governments modestly.

This is the first of three reports looking at the climate's impact on provincial and municipal infrastructure. The other two are set to focus on transportation and water infrastructure, and will be released at an unknown date in the future.

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