Report 2—Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
At a Glance Report 2—Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
What we examined (see Focus of the audit)
Environment and Climate Change Canada is the federal lead on climate change, including adaptation. The Department led the development of the 2011 Federal Adaptation Policy Framework. This framework states that the federal government must take action to effectively integrate climate change considerations into its programs, policies, and operations, and facilitate action by others. Each federal organization is responsible for applying its experience in risk management to the climate change issues that could affect its ability to deliver its mandate.
This audit focused on the extent to which federal organizations had made progress in adapting to climate change. We examined federal leadership efforts and whether departments and agencies implemented the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework.
We examined progress by determining whether 19 key departments and agencies identified and assessed climate change risks and took measures to adapt to climate change in their areas of responsibility.
Why we did this audit
This audit is important because federal leadership supports public and private sector institutions as they prepare Canadians to adapt to climate change impacts. The cost of inaction is estimated to greatly exceed the cost of taking action. To minimize costs, federal organizations must proactively manage climate change risks that could affect their mandate delivery.
What we concluded
We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada, in collaboration with other federal partners, did not provide adequate leadership to advance the federal government’s adaptation to climate change impacts. Although the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework and the recent Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change provided a foundation, there was no action plan nor clear direction to ensure that the federal government would integrate climate change considerations into its own programs, policies, and operations.
Most of the federal departments and agencies we examined did not take appropriate measures to adapt to climate change impacts by assessing and managing the climate change risks to their programs, policies, assets, and operations. As a result, the federal government could not demonstrate that it was making progress in adapting to a changing climate. Stronger federal leadership is needed.
What we found
Federal leadership for climate change adaptation
Overall, we found that Environment and Climate Change Canada did not provide adequate leadership and guidance to other federal organizations to achieve adaptation objectives. Although it developed the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework, the Department did not set priorities or develop an adaptation action plan to advance the framework across the federal government. We also found that Environment and Climate Change Canada did not provide adequate tools and resources to help other departments and agencies assess and adapt to climate change risks. During 2017, the Department began to make progress under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
These findings matter because to adapt to a changing climate, the federal government needs to set priorities and identify concrete targets, timelines, actions, and accountabilities that are supported by an assessment of climate change risks. Otherwise, it cannot demonstrate that the climate change risks to its areas of responsibility, including its assets, programs, and other activities, are understood or addressed.
Recommendation. Environment and Climate Change Canada, in consultation with central agencies (such as the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Centre for Greening Government), should
- provide clear direction and guidance to federal departments to assess climate change risks to their areas of responsibility, and
- gather individual departments’ resulting information to build government-wide awareness of climate change risks and opportunities to inform adaptation planning.
Recommendation. Environment and Climate Change Canada, in collaboration with other key federal departments and agencies, should develop a federal adaptation action plan that
- describes how the federal government will achieve its adaptation objectives and commitments;
- identifies concrete, prioritized actions with timelines to respond to climate change impacts on federal areas of responsibility, based on evidence from climate change risk assessments;
- clearly identifies roles and responsibilities, including who is responsible for overseeing the plan and which departments and agencies are accountable for implementing the actions; and
- requires measuring and reporting on the plan’s progress.
Recommendation. Environment and Climate Change Canada, in collaboration with other federal departments and agencies, should
- assess what tools, guidance, expertise, and resources federal departments and agencies need to manage their climate change risks;
- create a centralized portal of tools, guidance, expertise, and resources; and
- make ongoing training and sharing of best practices and lessons learned available to departments and agencies.
Departmental actions to address the impacts of climate change
Overall, we found that few federal departments and agencies assessed or acted on the climate change risks related to their areas of responsibility. Of the 19 departments and agencies we audited, 5 had assessed and addressed their risks related to their mandates. The remaining 14 did not fully assess their climate change risks, although several took some measures to adapt.
These findings matter because proactive planning is more effective and less costly than reacting to climate change impacts as they happen. Preparing for climate change requires federal organizations to manage risks that could prevent them from delivering on their mandates.
Recommendation. We made no recommendations in this area of examination.
Recommendation. The following departments and agencies should identify, assess, prioritize, and address the climate change risks related to their areas of responsibility:
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada;
- the Canadian Food Inspection Agency;
- Environment and Climate Change Canada;
- Global Affairs Canada;
- Infrastructure Canada;
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada;
- National Defence;
- Parks Canada;
- the Public Health Agency of Canada;
- Public Safety Canada; and
- Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Recommendation. Central agencies, including the Department of Finance Canada, the Privy Council Office, and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, should recalibrate existing guidance and tools used in program, plan, and policy reviews to support organizations’ explicit consideration of climate change impacts and adaptation actions in ongoing federal activities.
Entity Responses to Recommendations
The audited entities agree with our recommendations and have responded (see List of Recommendations).
|Report of the||Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development|
|Type of product||Performance audit|
|Completion date||15 June 2017|
|Tabling date||3 October 2017|
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