IBC proposes natural green infrastructure to mitigate flooding

Published: September 18, 2018



Overland flooding is among the main concerns insurers face in the coming decades. Storms are becoming more frequent and severe, bringing more homes into the reach of flooding. A new report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) urges communities to embrace natural green infrastructure to reduce the risk of floods.

In an effort to aid communities in assessing economic risks associated with climate change, the IBC has announced a collaboration with the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

“Nature conservation and climate resilience go hand in hand,” said Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Federal Affairs, IBC. “This report emphasizes that coastal and inland flood risk can be reduced by conserving and restoring natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and coastal marshes, and that the return on investment of natural infrastructure can at times exceed that of built infrastructure, such as dams and dikes. Nature can be our best friend in lowering the risk of exposed communities.”  



“Property and casualty insurance payouts from extreme weather have more than doubled every five to 10 years since the 1980s,” said Stewart. “Coastal and inland flood risk is rising across the country as a result of extreme weather events driven by climate change. Insurance companies are on the frontlines of helping Canadians cope with the impacts of the changing climate, paying out over $1.5 billion in the last 12 months alone.”

In its report, the IBC points to three mitigations for flooding, designed to be cost-effective and integrated with green infrastructure:

  • retain what you have
  • restore what you’ve lost and
  • build what you must.

IBC details a framework for improved infrastructure to mitigate flooding, based on the following principles:

Watershed and climate risk assessment: It is critical to assess the broad range of climate change and land use impacts on watersheds to understand key risks facing communities today and in the future (e.g., floods, drought, water quality issues and habitat loss).

Materiality assessment: Materiality assessments involving key community stakeholders are required to prioritize the most pertinent watershed challenges and to direct the focus of potential natural and engineered infrastructure solutions towards those that can generate “multiple wins.”

Feasibility assessment: A feasibility analysis, which consists of assessing the technical, legal and regulatory, organizational, social and economic factors for implementing projects, can confirm which natural and/or built infrastructure projects best address the priority issues.

“Natural infrastructure can be more cost efficient than built infrastructure. This is critical because with climate change, more frequent and intense weather events are becoming the new normal and leading to escalating costs. Natural infrastructure can offset millions in spending and offer multiple environmental and social benefits compared to traditional grey infrastructure systems.” 

Anne Hammill, Director of the Resilience Program at IISD