Priority III: Adapting to a Changing Climate

The risk of extreme weather has increased while existing infrastructure was not built to handle it. Late in 2021, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its Costing Climate Change Impacts to Public Infrastructure (CIPI): Buildings report. It assessed the financial impacts of three climate hazards: extreme rainfall, extreme heat, and freeze-thaw cycles on public buildings in Ontario.

Ontario’s provincial and municipal governments currently manage a $254 billion portfolio of buildings and facilities. If the climate was stable, this would cost $10 billion per year on average, totalling about $799 billion by 2100.
Climate change is leading to more extreme rainfall, more extreme heat, and fewer freeze-thaw cycles in Ontario. The FAO predicts that over the remainder of this decade, these three climate hazards will add nearly $6 billion to the costs of maintaining public buildings and facilities in a state of good repair.

Over the 21st century, climate change will continue to increase the costs of maintaining public buildings. In the medium emissions scenario, where global emissions peak in the 2040s then rapidly decline, changes in these climate hazards will increase infrastructure costs by an additional $66 billion over the century, or about $800 million per year on average. In the high emissions scenario, where global emissions continue to grow over the century, the additional costs would instead increase by $116 billion, or by $1.5 billion per year on average.

Solution: Climate Change Adaptation Fund

Infrastructure needs to be adapted to deal with the effects of a changing climate. The “once in a hundred year” storm may now occur once a decade or more. In their asset management plans, municipalities are obligated to include a strategic asset management policy that includes the actions that may be required to address the vulnerabilities that may be caused by climate change as well as adaptation opportunities that may be undertaken to manage these vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, many municipalities know what needs to be done, but lack the necessary funding to act. This is where a solid partner at the provincial level can play a key role.

Recommendation: Good Roads recommends that the province create a dedicated fund for adapting municipal infrastructure to climate change.