Out of all countries in the world, Canada is the fourth least vulnerable to climate change, after the UK, Norway and Germany, according to a prominent climate adaptation league table. However it is still languishing much lower on the same rankings with respect to readiness than it was in the 1990s.
Each year, researchers from Notre Dame University produce the Global Adaptation Index, a data-driven analysis of which countries are best prepared to deal with climate disruption. The index is divided into two parts: a ranking of which countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and which countries are most prepared to deal with such effects. The two rankings are then combined to produce a single overall index that has been put out each year since 1995.
However, since the launch of the index, Canada has steadily slid down the readiness ranking, which assesses preparedness on the economic, governance and social fronts. Governance focuses on the institutional factors that enhance adaptation, while social readiness captures factors such as social inequality, ICT infrastructure, education and innovation. In the 1990s, Canada regularly placed in the world’s top ten most ready to adapt to climate impacts, but as of last week’s publication of the 2016 numbers, it now sits at 17th place, between Japan and Ireland. New Zealand meanwhile comes first in the world for readiness, due particularly to its top marks for infrastructure, regulatory quality and education.
Canada’s combined readiness and vulnerability rankings produce an overall adaptation ranking of 13th in the world, down from ninth in 1995, and seventh in 1997. The reasons for this slide include a decline in the quality of trade and transport infrastructure such as paved roads, railroads, ports and information technology; disaster preparedness; and the percentage of protected terrestrial biome.
The index is not just a useful gauge of Canada’s capacity to withstand the shocks of climate change. By tracking the adaptive capacity of much less developed countries, the index shows from where Canada is likely to receive requests for climate finance assistance.
The five countries with the world’s worst adaptive capacity are all in Africa: Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Paris last December, the international community signed a global climate agreement that committed wealthy countries to delivering US$100 billion a year from both public and private sources by 2020. Up to now, many countries in the global north have failed to meet their climate finance pledges, and much of what is categorised as climate finance is just re-packaged existing development assistance funding. In addition, what funding has been made available has largely been in support of clean energy projects rather than adaptation measures.
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