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Infrastructure Policy Watch: Canada prioritises climate change action

01 December 2021

In this fortnightly blog, ICE looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

Infrastructure Policy Watch: Canada prioritises climate change action
Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party retained power as a minority government in the latest elections. Image credit: Shutterstock

Canadian government highlights the need for climate action in Throne Speech

Canada’s recent election did not deliver the overall majority Justin Trudeau hoped for, but his Liberal Party retained power as a minority government.

During the campaign the main parties all emphasised the importance of maintaining infrastructure investment as a means of addressing national challenges including climate change, decarbonising energy and transportation, delivering more affordable housing and improving quality of life for indigenous communities.

Action on climate change was a key theme of the government’s recent Throne Speech to open the new session of parliament, with pledges to invest in public transportation and mandate the sale of zero emissions vehicles.

The speech also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to strengthening Canada’s climate resilience, with the country’s first National Adaptation Strategy due in 2022. This year the government announced $3.79 billion in new investments related to climate change adaptation including wildfire resilience, flood maps and standards to support infrastructure resilience.

Work on Canada’s National Infrastructure Assessment is also continuing following the release of the public engagement report in July, which set out recommendations for the design of the assessment.

These include:

  • ensuring infrastructure investments drive Canada towards net-zero emissions by 2050;
  • establishing a strategic approach to near, medium, and long-term investment prioritisation for the next 30 years, based on Canada’s strategic outcomes; and
  • new long-term funding guidelines to support sustainable investment.

The next step should see the formation of an independent body to conduct the assessment.

ICE’s view

Earlier this year the Chair of the UK’s Environment Agency wrote for ICE about why resilience shouldn't be relegated in the discussion on climate change. With the impacts of climate change already being felt it is essential that governments prioritise adaptation and resilience to avoid catastrophic failures to key infrastructure.

    GIHub study highlights opportunities for transformative outcomes from post-Covid infrastructure stimulus

    A study by the Global Infrastructure Hub highlights that US$3.2 trillion of infrastructure stimulus spending has been announced by G20 governments looking to deliver a post-Covid economic recovery.

    The study covers the period between February 2020 and August 2021, and the announcements could see a 45% increase in the average yearly infrastructure investment across the G20 if spent during the next two years.

    While infrastructure spending has a strong impact on economic growth, GIHub wants governments to look beyond this measure to deliver transformative outcomes for people and the planet. Their work highlights opportunities for infrastructure investment to address social inequalities, environmental sustainability, inclusivity and resilience.

    There is some evidence that this is happening. Broken down by sector, transport and social infrastructure have received the largest portion of investment, while viewed by outcome 30% of stimulus relates to low-carbon transition, 20% to affordability and accessibility and 17% to digitalisation.

      ICE’s view

      GIHub’s call for a shift from developing built solutions that address singular problems to those that tackle multiple transformative outcomes echoes ICE’s work on improving long-term infrastructure planning, for example by putting the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of decision-making.

      Increased infrastructure investment is welcome, but to deliver transformative outcomes governments need to ensure that robust frameworks are in place, with long-term infrastructure strategies linked to key national objectives alongside sustainable funding.

      In case you missed it...

      • The Union Connectivity Review (UCR), led by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, sets out recommendations for improving transport connectivity between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
      • The UK government published the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands – ICE examines the proposals while chair of the APPGI, Andrew Jones MP, gives his views.

      Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

      • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE