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Closing Canada’s adaptation gap

Key elements of a National Adaptation Strategy

The Government of Canada has committed to developing Canada’s first ever National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), currently under development and expected at the end of 2022. Canada has lagged behind other countries in developing an integrated, country-wide strategy to respond to the impacts of climate change. Many of our peer nations are now on their second or third versions of adaptation strategies and corresponding implementation plans. 

The development of Canada’s first NAS provides an opportunity to catch up. Learning from the experience of other countries, Canada can create a strategy to address our underinvestment in adaptation to date and better prepare the country for the effects of a changing climate.

In this discussion paper, the Canadian Climate Institute outlines essential elements of an effective and successful National Adaptation Strategy, based on international best practice and the Institute’s policy assessment expertise. The paper is not intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of every detail of a robust NAS. Instead, we highlight some of the most critical elements to set the strategy—and the policies that will stem from it—up for both short-term and long-term success.

Critical elements of a successful National Adaptation Strategy include:

  1. Set national adaptation priorities based on risk, including identifying the top national climate change risks that will be the focus of the NAS and establishing specific and measurable adaptation goals and outcomes for each.
  2. Identify short-term policy priorities, including outlining policies and actions that can begin to be implemented immediately, as well as a timeline for delivering a more comprehensive national adaptation plan to follow shortly after the NAS.
  3. Define improved adaptation governance processes, including clearly articulating roles and responsibilities, improving co-ordination within and between governments, and creating mechanisms for internal accountability.
  4. Create a framework for tracking progress and enhancing accountability, including measuring the outcomes of policy efforts against stated goals and objectives, using targets and indicators to measure success, and ensuring durability and transparency of the framework.