The National Adaptation Strategy: What it Means for Workers in Canada

Submitted by ICA Editor | published 20th Dec 2022 | last updated 3rd Jan 2023
working person

A climate-changed economy is dependent on the ability of businesses and the public sector to hire skilled workers

The National Adaptation Strategy: What it Means for Workers in Canada

On November 24, 2022, the Federal Government released the final version of the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) and an accompanying Action Plan for comment. Together, the Strategy and Plan establish a common vision for areas of action to advance Canadian communities towards a state of heightened climate resiliency. 

One of the five main components, or key systems,” of the NAS focuses on the economy and workers, reinforcing the concept that transformation into a climate-changed economy is dependent on the ability of businesses and the public sector to hire skilled workers. Skilled workers for a climate-changed economy include people in professions such as finance, engineering, urban planning, landscape architecture, hydrology and geology, ecosystem restoration, forestry, agrology, healthcare, and in many technologies and trades careers. Public sector organizations also require policy analysts skilled in low-carbon resilience planning and capacity-building in gray (built environment), green (ecosystems), blue (water and coastal impacts) and social infrastructure and contexts.  

Meanwhile, the NAS also sets some ambitious goals with immediate implications for the workforce, including but not limited to licensed professionals. Among others, key goals include: 

  • 75% of professionals having the capacity to apply and communicate climate change adaptation tools and information for adaptation measures by 2027.  

  • 80% of organizations in the public and municipal sphere having factored climate change adaptation into decision-making processes by 2030. 

  • 100% of new federal infrastructure programs factoring in resilience to climate change by 2024. 

  • Comprehensive guidance on the use of robust codes and standards that cover the top climate change risks will be available for adoption by all infrastructure decision-makers by 2030. 

Yet, the NAS also recognizes that considerable gaps remain in training and skill development, particularly with respect to the application of climate information in assessments and using climate projections to inform the choice of adaptation action. Professional associations and practitioners will need to place considerably more attention on training and upskilling in order to meet the renewed responsibilities and duty of care required from their respective sectors.  

Climate adaptation capacity-building in Canada requires innovative approaches through education, training and networks (e.g., communities of practice, innovation accelerators, etc.) in order to produce and sustain skilled workers and support the emergence of new approaches and actions. Labour-focused jobs must also be an important element for upskilling and reskilling considerations, offered through college and polytechnic programming. With the right investments, Canadian workers-of-the-future will have the capability to learn, adapt to change, manage the physical, financial and social risks associated with the changing climate, and build resilience in their organizations and communities through tailored strategies and actions designed for specific local contexts.