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'Green infrastructure' key to protecting against extreme weather events: report

Last Updated Sep 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm MDT

FILE PHOTO: Flooding in Grand Forks in May, 2018. (Source: Regional District of Kootenay Boundary)

Nature's own 'green infrastructure' is one of the best way to protect against climate change: Canada insurance industry

A new IBC report urges communities to retain and restore so-called green infrastructure to protect against flood, storm

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new report from the insurance industry is urging Canadian communities to do more to protect themselves against extreme weather events by conserving and restoring the nature that surrounds them.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says “urgent action” is needed to curb what could be a “debilitating loss of natural infrastructure assets” across the country.

“Green infrastructure is essentially the services that nature provides us in the form off wetlands, sand dunes, coastal marshes, and coral reefs that provide protection from flooding and from convective storms such as hurricanes in a way that is much more cost effective than what we can build in terms of dams, dikes and culverts,” says Craig Stewart, IBC’s Vice President of Federal Affairs.

The report — which was done in collaboration with the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation and the International Institute for Sustainable Development — is the latest insurance industry initiative to help communities address their economic risk associated with climate change.

Stewart says property and casualty insurance payouts from extreme weather have more than doubled every five to 10 years since the 1980s.

“Our losses due to flooding in this year alone in Canada have just exceeded $1.5 billion in insured losses. Natural infrastructure is one of the tools in our toolkit that can be deployed to make communities across the country more resilient,” he tells NEWS 1130.


“We already have riparian forests and wetlands in place. Often we remove them without thinking of the protection they afford us. What this report says is that we should be thinking twice before removing the nature around us.”

Climate adaptation experts agree.

“Natural infrastructure is not mere decoration. It limits flood risk and the downstream discharge of pollutants, while at the same time supporting biodiversity.” says Dr. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.

“In response, every attempt should be made to retain and restore natural infrastructure today, if we are to avoid unconscionable economic, social and environmental losses tomorrow.”

Stewart says a full cost-benefit analysis often shows that restoring wetlands is both cheaper and more effective in the long term than pouring concrete.

“We have specific examples of that across the country featured in this report. We crunch the numbers and demonstrate that wetlands function as a huge reservoir in the landscape and, in many cases, they can actually store more water and avert more losses downstream than dams,” he explains.

“Nature conservation and climate resilience go hand in hand,” Stewart adds. “Nature can be our best friend in lowering the risk of exposed communities.”

Anne Hammill, Director of the Resilience Program at the IISD, says that is critical.

“With climate change, more frequent and intense weather events are becoming the new normal and leading to escalating costs. Natural infrastructure can offset millions in spending and offer multiple environmental and social benefits compared to traditional grey infrastructure systems.”