Environmental advocates rallied at the Ontario legislature on Thursday in support of NDP legislation that aims to ensure the province is prepared for extreme weather and disasters caused by climate change.

"The government must take actions to protect its residents from climate impacts, including extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, flooding and destruction of infrastructure," said Jennifer Penney, chair of the adaptation working group for Seniors for Climate Action Now! (SCAN!), who drafted the bill. "The Ford government is not doing anything about that and has no climate change adaptation plan."

Called the Ontario Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Act, the private member’s bill mandates the minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to develop and publish a strategic action plan to prepare and protect Ontario citizens, communities, infrastructure and the natural environment from the risks and impacts of climate change. The act outlines more than 50 specific and practical actions the government needs to take to advance adaptation and resilience in the province.

It requires the minister to establish an arm's-length Ontario Climate Adaptation Fund to support implementation of adaptation and resilience activities outlined in the plan. The minister is also tasked with establishing an Ontario Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Resource Centre.

Penney told Canada's National Observer that every other province in Canada has access to a provincial or regional resource centre except Ontario.

She also mentioned that during British Columbia's 2021 heat dome, over 600 deaths occurred, mostly among vulnerable seniors. However, in Ontario, heat-related deaths aren't recorded as a cause on death certificates, she said.

"Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of climate change, especially heat waves. If you don’t know where and why people are dying, it’s hard to do anything about it. This bill will change that," she said.

Generally, climate adaptation is defined as any activity that reduces the negative impacts of climate change and may present new opportunities. Experts suggest adaptation measures can be diverse and vary across sectors globally. Some examples include coastal management, infrastructure improvements, nature-based solutions, insurance incentives and early warning systems. These measures not only mitigate the impact of climate change, but also offer opportunities for co-benefits with mitigation efforts.

The NDP plan would require the Lieutenant Governor to establish a government-wide Climate Adaptation Coordination Secretariat, which would coordinate and assist with the implementation of science-aligned climate adaptation plans for all government ministries and agencies, among other responsibilities. This includes formulating and implementing policy, legislation and regulations.

The act outlines more than 50 specific and practical actions the government needs to take to advance adaptation and resilience in the province. #Climate Change #Environmental advocates #climate climate change adaptation bill.

"We can see what is happening around the world with flooding, fires and droughts. We know that wildfires are only one of the risks and dangers we are going to have to deal with in Ontario," said Peter Tabuns, the NDP's critic for energy and climate action. "The world is getting hotter. We know Ontario has to prepare to adapt to the climate crisis and develop resilience. Right now, that is not happening in Ontario, and we have brought forward this bill that gives Ontario a framework for action and a suite of actions to be taken to reduce our risk, reduce our costs, and protect human lives."

Penney told Canada's National Observer that every other province in Canada has access to a provincial or regional resource centre, except Ontario. Photo By: Abdul Matin Sarfraz / Canada's National Observer.

Tabuns told Canada’s National Observer that among the proposed immediate actions are steps for communities to reduce risks from wildfires, including various local protection and forestry strategies.

“Thousands of Canadians have been driven from their homes by climate change-charged wildfires,” said Tabuns in a statement shared online. “Ford’s Conservatives have to stop fiddling while the world burns — we have to get ready for a hotter climate.”

Tabuns said the Ford government doesn't consider the climate crisis to be a serious issue.

"You wouldn’t wait for your house to burn down before calling the fire department. We’re in a growing climate crisis, and we have to get on with the preventive work to reduce risk, reduce costs and save lives," said Tabuns. "Our bill gives the government the powers and plans it needs to protect Ontarians. It’s drawn from reports that they commissioned and have chosen to ignore. Acting today will save lives and money in the future."

He added that the Ford government is not interested in spending money on things that are needed to protect the well-being of people in Ontario, which is why there is no coherent and comprehensive program for adaptation and resilience. “This bill gives them the plan and structures needed for those programs.”

Earlier this year, Ian Burton, Canada’s ‘father’ of climate change adaptation, emphasized the necessity for immediate collaborative action in response to climate change uncertainties, especially in sectors such as agriculture. He highlighted ongoing challenges, including the division of responsibilities between different levels of government.

Canada's National Observer reached out to Ontario’s ministry of the environment, conservation and parks for a response, but did not receive comments in time for publication.

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