The price of doing nothing to adapt First Nation infrastructure to climate change will result in high costs for recovery, losses and redevelopment, according to an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) report released Tuesday.

First Nations face disproportionate impacts of wildfires and are threatened by other climate-related phenomena like drought and flooding. For example, First Nations represent over 50 per cent of wildfire evacuations in Canada, despite only representing five per cent of the population.

Last year alone saw over 95 First Nations evacuated because of wildfires, almost double the record set in 2022. Now persistent drought conditions in several jurisdictions point to another potentially severe wildfire season. Reports also indicate last season’s fires have survived underground through winter.

The price of climate adaptation is $30.9 billion, a fraction of the $349.2 billion needed to close the infrastructure gap by 2030 and fulfil a promise Ottawa made to First Nation leaders. Climate adaptation includes protecting water systems from drought, storms, flooding, increased water temperatures and sea-level rise. The report also notes climate change may require the “costly development of alternative sources of water.”

Breakdown of the $349.2 billion needed to close the infrastructure gap by 2030. Screenshot

All levels of government and the private sector will have to work together to achieve the end-of-the-decade deadline, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters on Tuesday.

“This is a big, big lift,” she said.

The report pegs the cost of climate adaptation at $8.32 billion over the next six years, with the price increasing as climate conditions worsen in forthcoming decades.

Another $12.7 billion is needed to ensure infrastructure on First Nations is carbon-neutral to help meet Ottawa’s international climate commitments.

Climate adaptation costs $30.9 billion, a fraction of the $349.2 billion needed to close the infrastructure gap by 2030 and fulfil a promise Ottawa made to First Nation leaders. #Reconciliation #CanPoli #Climate #AFN

“The 2024 federal budget must align with the priorities set forth by First Nations, including in this report,” AFN National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak said in a press release on Tuesday.

“The Government of Canada must ensure that our voices are not only heard but also lead the conversation and action on matters that directly affect our communities,” the statement continued.

On Tuesday, the Chiefs of Ontario released an accompanying report noting it will cost $58.9 billion to ensure improvements to on-reserve infrastructure catch up with the rest of the province by 2030 — a gap that is among the widest in the country.

In the report, about $4.8 billion will be needed to manage the proposed climate adaptations and the impact of climate change on First Nations on-reserve infrastructure.

Regional challenges to climate change are different. Screenshot of the Closing the Infrastructure Gap by 2030 report

Another $2 billion will be required to lower carbon emissions on-reserve, including improved energy efficiency of First Nations housing, cars, trucks and light-duty vehicles like quads and snowmobiles by 2030.

In a statement, Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare said housing, water and lack of emergency services in First Nations remain unsafe and neglected, amounting to the denial of fundamental human rights.

“Every day this gap gets wider,” the statement added. “Inaction is not just going to cost more money, but it is a stain on this very country.

“It is time to close the infrastructure gap.”

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