Where should we focus our actions and investments if we want to build a sustainable future? Caroline Metz says Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can guide the way.

Caroline, who is currently the Managing Director, Economics and Resiliency for the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, and an engineer by training, says she developed her awareness of environmental and social issues over a career in consulting roles in industry and healthcare. However, she hit a turning point in 2018 when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Global Warming of 1.5°C Report: “That report forced me to look at whether I could be doing more for climate action. It motivated me to enroll in the Master of Environment and Business program at the University of Waterloo, which deepened my understanding of sustainable development.”

The time for investment in climate adaptation is urgently needed

Caroline’s areas of focus are extreme heat and flood risk mitigation. She is part of a team at the Intact Centre — an applied research centre at the University of Waterloo — that develops climate adaptation guidance, tools, and resources for individuals, communities, governments and businesses to help them reduce the risks posed by climate change.

“Climate adaptation is any activity that reduces the negative impacts of climate change (including storms, flooding, wildfires, rising sea levels, drought and intense heat), whereas climate mitigation efforts reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the rate of warming,” explains Caroline. “But the truth is, the warming we’ve experienced to date is almost irreversible, Canada will continue to warm, and we need to adapt to the changes that have already occurred. Canada is warming at two to three times the global rate, but our investments in climate adaptation don’t reflect that.”

For individuals and communities working to adapt, Caroline points to the guidance in the National Adaptation Strategy in five areas:

  • Disaster resilience
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Nature and biodiversity
  • Infrastructure
  • Economy and workers

Offering both long-term goals and shorter-term targets to achieve by 2025-2030, the NAS is a Canadian complement to the Sustainable Development Goals. Climate adaptation aligns with SDG 13 (“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”), and the NAS structure aligns with global goals for sustainable cities and communities, good health and well-being, life below water and on land, decent work and economic growth — and more.

“If you are working on the SDGs in Canada, you can look to the NAS to guide your investments, activities, and progress indicators. Climate adaptation is interconnected, and like the SDGs, it brings together many aspects of society, life, and the ways we work and play,” says Caroline. “Both of these frameworks provide a structure for an all-hands-on-deck approach, they spark collaboration, bring people together, and show us ways to move forward.”

Climate mitigation is global, but adaptation is local

Caroline is encouraged by local adaptation projects unfolding across Canada. Individuals and communities are demonstrating their concern about the climate crisis and their willingness to invest in solutions that use both grey and natural infrastructure. For example, Edmonton has implemented a flood risk mitigation plan that includes the use of dry ponds to divert and store water in the event of a flood. Montreal, Calgary and many other cities are investing in urban forestry — increasing their tree canopy to provide cooling and counter urban heat islands. While these projects address the impacts of climate change, they also support biodiversity and offer health benefits for residents.

“Mitigation is global, while adaptation is local. And it doesn’t require technological breakthroughs because we have solutions on hand to reduce risks and build resilience we need. Our real challenge is following through and mobilizing those solutions at scale and doing so quickly,” says Caroline. “Our end goal is to make Canada better: safer, healthier, more resilient, and stronger. By investing in sustainability today, we can support future generations’ prosperity and well-being.”

To learn more about climate adaptation steps you can take as an individual or community, see
the resources from the Intact Centre covering a range of topics from wildfire-ready communities
to home, apartment and condo heat protection to flood protection and more.