The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has released a research paper, Strength, resilience, sustainability: Canada’s construction sector recommendations on adapting to climate change. The paper highlights the benefits of sustainable and resilient infrastructure that can withstand the effects of climate change and stresses the imperative of investing in sustainable infrastructure, particularly as COVID-19 economic recovery efforts are underway.
Strength, resilience, sustainability explores both the global and Canadian construction industries’ adaptation measures to date and uses that insight to inform recommendations for how the industry can work alongside the government to accelerate progress in mitigating the impact of climate change on infrastructure.
“The construction industry in Canada has already implemented many sustainable practices and is eager to continue doing so, but a major challenge we face is the need for government investment and a more supportive environment for fostering innovation within the sector,” said Mary Van Buren, CCA president. “Economic recovery discussions are an opportune time for the government and our industry to partner to ensure that large-scale infrastructure is built with resiliency that can withstand changing weather patterns and events.”
To build Canada’s future clean economy and create good jobs, a change to the way that public infrastructure projects are determined and funded is required. The Canadian construction industry contributes $141 billion to the national GDP each year and employs approximately 1.4 million people across the country – making the potential to affect change in this sector significant. One barrier to green investment is the higher upfront costs, even though there can be lower costs over the lifetime of the asset. In fact, research indicates that benefits of investing in green infrastructure can outweigh the costs by a ratio of six to one.
Climate-related risks to physical infrastructure in Canada include damage from flooding, extreme precipitation, high winds or ice storms, wildfires, power outages and grid failures associated with heatwaves and high demand for air conditioning, and thawing permafrost, among others. To address some of these issues, the sector has already introduced innovations in building infrastructure that is more resilient to climate change; applied building retrofits for greater energy efficiency; integrated new (or time-tested) materials into projects; found opportunity in the growing need for transparency of climate risk of infrastructure; and maximized partnerships where possible.
The federal government has a strong role to play in changing its procurement practices to allow for higher upfront costs and to de-risk innovation. Without changes to existing practices to consider climate resiliency in infrastructure, climate change costs for Canada could escalate from roughly $5 billion per year in 2020 to between $21 and $43 billion per year by the 2050s.