Environment Canada budget slashed: Adaptation and Impacts Research shut down
The conservative Harper Government in Canada has cut over $200 million from the budget of Environment Canada, resulting in the loss of 1,211 jobs over the next three years. Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services. The programs that were cut this year include, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index. The programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk.
Included in the swingeing cuts is the Adaptation and Impacts Research branch. From their website:
Environment Canada has undertaken impacts and adaptation science for more than 15 years, developing methodologies and tools, and interpreting climate and weather data. Environment Canada conducts impacts research to improve our understanding of the sensitivities of sectors, regions, people and property to a changing climate in order to help develop appropriate adaptation actions, with implementing partners, for the benefit of all Canadians. Multi-disciplinary studies have led to numerous adaptation success stories to safeguard health, safety, economic competitiveness and the biological diversity of Canada.
Professor Ian Burton:
I regret to have to tell you that the Adaptation and Impact Research group that I established in Environment Canada some
17 years ago has been axed (It’s not quite dead yet but most of the senior scientists have received “surplus to requirements” letters). This is just the first round of the drastic budget cutting that is expected.
This is disappointing news as the group has been really innovative over its history. The group has had close contact with Australian adaptation research over the years. Ian Burton: “Partly its a Conservative Federal Government that wants as little as possible to do with climate change, and partly it’s a strategy to pass the buck to the Provinces and municipalities.”
The assumption here is that adaptation is local, not the responsibility of a national government. This is a misreading of the truism that mitigation is global and adaptation local. While impacts are locally specific and most adaptation actions need to be at that scale, institutional and governance arrangements need to be made at all scales. Likewise with research, having a nationl focus for adaptation research and implementation is a key part of sustainability science. Likewise for all other forms of environmental management taking in water, clean environments, species and ecosystems and so on. National governments provide coordination and capacity, province and local government manages regulation and delivery.
Conservative politics in the English speaking developed countries of the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia is in a race to the bottom. This isn’t a statement of my political position (which suggests that bipartisanship should be the cornerstone of environmental sustainability), it’s an observation backed up by a shitload of evidence.