A Yukon researcher helped create a new way for the federal government to measure if it’s helping communities in the Yukon and across Canada adapt to climate change.
Bronwyn Hancock, the associate vice president of research development at Yukon College, recently participated in a 22-member panel that developed indicators to assess Canadian communities’ resilience to climate change — and help them figure out how to adapt.
Released last week, the report — Measuring progress on adaptation and climate resilience: recommendations to the Government of Canada — offers 54 indicators on climate change adaptability. Those indicators provide a ruler against which to measure if Canadian communities are becoming more adapted to climate change and if federal climate adaptation funding is working.
Until now, the federal government hasn’t had a standard way to know if money it spends on helping communities adapt to climate change actually helps them. Reporting Canada’s progress on adaptation is required by Canada’s committments under the 2016 Paris Agreement.
The indicators also provide an outline communities can use to structure their climate adaptation plans, said Hancock.
The indicators focus on health, supporting northern and coastal communities, responding to natural disasters, building resilient infrastructure, using scientific and Indigenous knowledge to guide decisions, and monitoring progress on adaptation.
It’s a broad swath of topics, and creating indicators to measure them was an excercise in diplomacy, said Hancock.
“We really worked to weave consideration of different ways of knowing through the report,” she said. “For some people at the table, that’s something they’ve been doing for a long time, for some people it was really new.”
Panellists came from many backgrounds. Industry representatives, Indigenous organizations, academics, and representatives from environmental groups and youth groups were all there. Finding points of common ground relevant to towns across the country was essential, she said.
For example, the group focused on food security, particularly in coastal and northern communities. That lead them to develop an indicator measuring people’s access to country foods — which don’t rely on long-distance air or road travel that can be disrupted by climate-related disasters like landslides or storms — in these communities.
It’s a measure that can then be used by communities to build a case for on-going federal funding to support programs increasing access to country foods.
“We wanted to say, we want to give communities the right to figure out how they want to monitor, gather the data they need, and self-determine the outcome that makes sense for them,” Hancock said.
The indicators don’t force the federal government to modify or increase their funding for climate adaptation.
However, Canada needs to report its progress on climate change adaptation to the other countries who signed the Paris Agreement. Under that agreement, it must show that it’s doing something about climate change adaptation or risk international retaliation. The indicators also give a way for Canadians to push for more government support for adaptation.
The indicators are the ruler used to measure that progress (or lack of progress).
“It was interesting for us as panellists, because we needed to come up with indicators that are measurable,” said Hancock. “We didn’t want to come up with a suite of indicators we were already reaching. We want to use them to compel further action.”
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