Federal Government Releases “Climate Lens” to Screen Investments and Build More Resilient Infrastructure

On Friday, June 1st, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced the launch of the Climate Lens, a tool that will help ensure the Government of Canada takes into account climate change considerations when assessing its future infrastructure investments.

What is the Climate Lens?

Under Investing in Canada, the federal government’s long-term infrastructure plan, “applicants seeking federal funding for new major public infrastructure projects will now be asked to undertake an assessment of how their projects will contribute to or reduce carbon pollution, and to consider climate change risks in the location, design, and planned operation of a project.” To carry out these assessments, applicants will be required to apply the new Climate Lens and associated guidance.

The Climate Lens has two components:

  1. GHG mitigation assessment, which will measure the anticipated GHG emissions impact of an infrastructure project and assess opportunities to reduce them. Mitigation assessments are required (in accordance with ISO 14064-2) to assess each project across the construction and operations and maintenance (O&M) phases but does not call for a full life-cycle analysis (LCA) (e.g. supply chain emissions or emissions associated with the asset’s future major rehabilitative maintenance or decommissioning).
  2. Climate change resilience assessment, which will employ a risk management approach (ISO 31000) to anticipate, prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a climate change related disruption or impact (e.g. severe weather, floods, sea-level rise, etc.).Risks must be identified and assessed, and resiliency measures taken should be described. Where applicants do not implement the resiliency measures identified, a rationale and justification should be provided.

Individual proponents could be asked to undertake one or both types of assessment, depending on the program, funding stream, and the estimated total eligible cost of the project.

Notably, both the GHG mitigation assessment and climate change resilience assessments will require validation by a professional engineer or relevant professional for quality control purposes and to confirm that the assessment conforms to the Climate Lens guidance.

To which projects will the Climate Lens apply?

The Climate Lens will be applied to projects of certain types and meeting certain project value thresholds in three main programs/funding streams.

  • Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The Climate Lens is a requirement for projects valued over $10 million or any greenhouse gas mitigation or climate change resilience projects that are submitted under the $33 billion Investing in Canada plan.
  • Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF). It is also a requirement for projects applying for funding under DMAF, a national program that will invest $2 billion to support large-scale infrastructure projects to help communities better manage climate hazard risks.
  • Smart Cities Challenge. Finally, the Climate Lens will be applied to certain Smart Cities Challenge proposals. The Smart Cities Challenge is a competition open to Canadian communities (e.g. municipalities, regional governments and Indigenous communities) that encourages the adoption of a smart cities approach to improve the lives of those living in such communities.

The Table below summarizes the programs and streams of funding and project value thresholds to which the Climate Lens applies.

Source: Government of Canada, Climate Lens: General guidance

Note that cost-sharing to cover expenses for Climate Lens assessments will be available, but only after projects are approved for federal funding. Should a project proponent decide to carry out a mitigation or resiliency Climate Lens assessment voluntarily (i.e. it is not required because the project value falls beneath the applicable thresholds), the costs associated with such assessments would also be eligible for cost-sharing in the event the federal funding was approved.

Exemptions based on and provincial and territorial capacity concerns or equivalencies are contemplated by the guidance and will be assessed on a case by case basis.

What does this mean for infrastructure resiliency in Canada?

Canada is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Climate-related infrastructure failures can threaten health and safety, interrupt essential services, disrupt economic activity, and incur high costs for recovery and replacement. As Canadian infrastructure ages, it will become increasingly vulnerable to both rapid and slow-onset climate-related events. Proactive adaptation initiatives, though requiring additional effort upfront, can increase the resiliency of the system and help to offset significant future costs.

The Government of Canada is expected to invest more than $180 billion in infrastructure over the next twelve years. These investments are a golden opportunity to reduce the climate-related risks faced by our communities and create infrastructure that is well-designed for the future.

The Climate Lens goes further than many other policy approaches: it does not just require the consideration of climate change in infrastructure projects, it also offers helpful guidance as to how. In responding to these requirements and applying the methodologies set out, industry will develop the skills and capacity needed to assess the climate impacts of infrastructure projects going forward. It is expected that the Climate Lens will provide meaningful insight into the long-term impacts of infrastructure projects, encourage better decision-making and help to achieve some of the key climate resilience objectives set out under the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change.

For more details, see the Climate Lens guidance material* here.

*The guidance in this document is “evergreen,” meaning that it will be continually updated to remain relevant and aligned with emerging tools, approaches and methodologies.

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