Exchanging Ideas on Climate
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
Exchanging ideas on Climate

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TRUE NORTH: Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change in Northern Canada
Canada's North is on the frontline of
climate change. Nowhere else are the
effects and stakes of failing to adapt to
climate change so high.

Click image above to view satellite images from
Canada's North



The NRTEE makes the following recommendations to promote the resilience of northern infrastructure and its ability to adapt to a changing climate. Our recommendations have two objectives: first, make existing institutions work better now by mainstreaming adaptation into government policies, processes, and mechanisms and ensuring northern views are ?at the table?, and second, build northern climate change adaptation capacity in science and at the community level, so the region is more resilient, selfreliant, and less vulnerable in meeting the challenges of climate change adaptation in the years ahead.


1. Integrate climate risks into existing government policies, processes, and mechanisms.

We can tackle climate change adaptation effectively now by simply utilizing existing policies, processes, and mechanisms more effectively. We don?t need to wait to invent new ones. What?s needed is to take existing knowledge and mainstream adaptation perspectives into what we already do. This means making future infrastructure decisions on a climate-wise basis, integrating longer-term climate factors into planning, funding, building, and management decisions now. Specifically, the NRTEE recommends that:

  • The Government of Canada use its infrastructure programming and related federal-provincialterritorial frameworks to leverage the integration of climate risks in new construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, ensuring that the systems are in place to monitor and report on infrastructure performance.
  • The Government of Canada, through the Standards Council of Canada, lead efforts to ensure the effectiveness of codes and standards for infrastructure design, planning, and management to address climate risks, and that this be regularly assessed in light of new climate information.
  • Governments and the insurance industry collaborate to examine the role of private insurance in managing climate risks to infrastructure, potential changes in access to coverage of insurance as new climate risk factors emerge, and the need for mandatory disclosure of financial risks that climate change poses to the industry.
  • Governments at all levels undertake a collaborative review of current disaster/emergency management frameworks as mechanisms to enable adaptation to climate change on a preventative basis.

2. Ensure northern interests are represented and implicated in the development of climate change adaptation solutions.

National processes and mechanisms do not adequately account for, or utilize northern perspectives in designing and updating important tools for climate change adaptation. This is essential if this region is going to prepare itself for what?s ahead. Meaningful input from northern practitioners, experts, and communities in infrastructure planning, designing, and building needs to be organized and institutionalized on a regular basis. Specifically, the NRTEE recommends that:

  • The Government of Canada promote dialogue and engagement between risk management practitioners (codes, standards, and related instruments; insurance; disaster management) operating in Canada?s North and the climate change adaptation community.
  • The Government of Canada consider expanding the relevant national model codes, such as the National Building Code of Canada, to provide direction to northern infrastructure practitioners on the integration of climate risks.
  • Governments collaborate with northern infrastructure practitioners to develop design and engineering guidelines, or peer-reviewed best practices, specifically for Canada?s North for each major category of infrastructure.
  • Governments highlight expertise and experience in addressing climate risks to northern infrastructure at the circumpolar level, to share knowledge, learn from others, and enforce Canadian leadership as part of Canada?s Northern Strategy.


3. Strengthen the science capacity and information use in the North to support long-term adaptation efforts.

Science is at the heart of climate change knowledge and trends. We need to know more about the nature and extent of climate change in Canada?s North and how it will affect infrastructure and communities. Data and information of this type can have wider utility and applications beyond government, supporting private infrastructure development and communities? capacities to adapt quickly and effectively. Specifically, the NRTEE recommends that:

  • The Government of Canada invest in expanding the weather and permafrost data stations in Canada?s North that it uses to collect this critical information in support of infrastructure adaptation decision-making needs.
  • The Government of Canada ensure the continued investment in climate science and modelling, and in climate change impacts and adaptation research, taking advantage of partnerships with Arctic research institutes and innovative delivery mechanisms.
  • The Government of Canada dedicate resources to reliably update and disseminate regionally relevant climate data and information, climate change projections, and climate design values to support infrastructure decisions.
  • Governments, the private sector, and research organizations work together to make existing adaptation-relevant scientific and technical data and information more accessible and usable to northern infrastructure practitioners, owners, and operators.

4. Build community capacity to address climate risks to northern infrastructure and take advantage of opportunities.

Communities in Canada?s North need stronger adaptive capacity to deal with climate change. The vulnerability of northern infrastructure and related services is plainly evident. Reliable infrastructure is central to sustainable regional development and human security. Yet, in many northern communities, the capacity to assess and manage the risks to infrastructure posed by climate change, as well as to seize opportunities, is very limited. Specifically, the NRTEE recommends that:

  • Governments continue to support community-based infrastructure-risk reduction through activities such as building awareness of the linkages between disaster management and climate change adaptation, critical infrastructure mapping, and developing and tracking of vulnerability indicators.
  • Governments support regional innovation in Canada's North by encouraging the development of new technologies and materials adapted to cold climates and enabling their commercialization.
  • Governments work together to identify gaps and support regional skills development to address infrastructure needs in a changing northern climate, including ensuring local capacity exists to conduct risk assessments, and deploy and enforce risk reduction measures and standards locally and regionally.
  • Governments, the private sector, communities, and research organizations consider how to further tap into traditional and local knowledge as a unique contributor to building community and regional capacity for adaptation.

IPY 2007-2008

True North forms part of Canada?s contribution to the International Polar Year. The International Polar Year (IPY) 2007 -08 is a large scientific program focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic. [more...]


20th Anniversary Forum

On October 30th, 2008, the NRTEE commemorated its twentieth anniversary by holding a forum to discuss our country?s next climate-policy agenda.

Round Table 3 - Securing Canada's Arctic Environment

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We want to hear from you

The Round Table is based on dialogue. We believe solutions emerge when people engage themselves in issues and share their expertise, curiosity and enthusiasm freely.

If you have something to say about True North, a challenge we're tackling, or the way we work, we want to hear from you. You can send us your comments via our feedback form or contact a member of our staff.