The climate change debate has moved from questions about the reality of, and reasons for, change, to consideration of what can be done to address its causes and consequences. While reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is essential to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, it cannot prevent significant changes in climate. Therefore, adaptation is also necessary. Because climate will continue to change for many decades, adaptation is an ongoing process that involves building the capacity to undertake continual adjustments in response to changes in climate and other stresses. Adaptation involves a wide range of actors, including individuals, community groups, civil society, the private sector and all orders of government.
Canada has the capacity to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change will bring. The effective deployment of this adaptive capacity will be facilitated by increased knowledge and awareness of the impacts of changing climate, and broader understanding of the role of adaptation. Some adaptation actions in the context of climate change are already being undertaken in Canada. Most of these were initiated in response to isolated events or circumstances, as the need became apparent and where the capacity existed. A more anticipatory and strategic approach to adaptation would help reduce social and economic costs, increase efficiency and further reduce vulnerability in Canada. Moving adaptation forward in Canada involves building on the momentum gained through existing initiatives and considering additional steps to facilitate implementation of adaptation measures and policies. Building on present activities involves:
- maintaining and strengthening the knowledge base;
- synthesizing and sharing knowledge;
- removing barriers to action; and
- reviewing and contributing to international initiatives.
To achieve these goals, all of the actors involved in climate change adaptation will play a role. Possible near-term steps include:
- broadening engagement and collaboration;
- leading by example;
- enhancing institutional capacity; and
- promoting and, where appropriate, mandating adaptation measures.