TORONTO - November 18, 2011 -
More than 50 public, private and not-for-profit organizations from across the Toronto region have begun working together to better protect the region's residents, organizations, infrastructure, and environment from extreme weather.
Convened by the City of Toronto and CivicAction, the WeatherWise Partnership
will identify risks and prioritize areas for action and investment by businesses, communities, organizations and governments as the Toronto region faces more extreme rain, snow, wind and temperatures. Over the next year, the group will develop a strategic action plan that will be shared widely at a regional forum in late 2012.
The WeatherWise Partnership - which includes the three levels of government and representatives from many sectors including financial, insurance, communications, real estate, electrical, universities and transportation - has identified the continuation of electrical power during extreme weather events as its first priority. Future areas of focus may include urban transportation, flooding and extreme heat.
The WeatherWise Partnership's volunteer Co-Chairs are Dr. Blair Feltmate, University of Waterloo and Director of the Climate Change Adaptation Project (Canada); Eva Ligeti, Executive Director, Clean Air Partnership and co-chair of CivicAction's Greening Greater Toronto; and Robert Tremblay, Director, Insurance Bureau of Canada.
More extreme weather, more often
: The Toronto region is experiencing record-breaking rainfalls and heat and, more recently, tornadoes. A recent pilot climate modelling study for the City of Toronto indicates results consistent with previous studies.
"A great deal of important research is being done regarding changing weather patterns," said Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough Agincourt), Chair of Toronto's Parks and Environment Committee. "We look forward to the development of the strategic action plan to be released next year."
A storm on August 19, 2005, was the most costly in Ontario history and the third largest insured natural catastrophe in Canadian history. It cost the City of Toronto at least $47 million, and insurers paid out more than $500 million in claims across the Greater Toronto Area, with roughly half related to 13,000 incidents of basement flooding. The storm caused flash floods that wiped out a major portion of Finch Avenue and damaged other critical infrastructure - including a sewer pipe at Highland Creek that released raw sewage into Lake Ontario - while polluting rivers, eroding river banks, and destroying trees. Six years later, the City is still repairing infrastructure such as bridges and paths in parks.
"Severe weather events have the potential to damage costly critical infrastructure, and put our region's people and environment at risk," said John Tory, Chair of CivicAction. "We are pleased to be partnering with the City of Toronto and other partners to create a regional multi-sector group to collectively identify our risks and what we can do to better protect our region."
Losses hit new high
: The amount of money paid out in insurance claims to cover damage from extreme weather events globally is 20 times higher now than it was in the 1950s. For each of the past three years, insurance companies in Canada have paid out an unprecedented $1 billion to policy holders affected by extreme weather events.
"By mid-year 2011, we had already surpassed the previous record for losses set in 2005," said Glenn McGillivray, Managing Director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, at the inaugural meeting of the WeatherWise Partnership. "Prior to that, we hadn't seen a billion-dollar year since 1998, the year of the ice storm. Bad loss years are clearly becoming more common."
The benefits of taking action now are not limited to addressing environmental concerns. At the Partnership's inaugural meeting, participants also heard from legal and securities experts who argued that, by taking action in advance of extreme weather events, organizations can reduce the vulnerability of their facilities, infrastructure, and other assets to damage, and minimize the risk of business disruptions and exposure to third party liability claims.
The WeatherWise Partnership will benefit from the lessons learned by the London Climate Change Partnership
, which was formed over ten years ago with a similar mandate to improve climate resilience in the UK. In 2008, New York City formed a similar group known as the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force
"Congratulations to Toronto. You have started a necessary journey," said Gerry Acher, Chair of the London Climate Change Partnership who met with the City of Toronto and CivicAction representatives prior to their forming the Toronto region group. "As the global climate continues to change, cities are emerging as the front line in taking action to protect their residents, businesses and the natural environment. Becoming more resilient to extreme weather is no longer optional for progressive cities, it is essential to our continued prosperity."
CivicAction is a multi-sectoral coalition of thousands of civic leaders committed to acting collectively to tackle tough issues and big opportunities facing the Toronto region. CivicAction's Greater Toronto Summits bring leaders from all walks of life together to assess the region's strengths and challenges and to identify priority areas and opportunities for attention (the 2011 Greater Toronto Summit report is Breaking Boundaries: Time to Think and Act Like a Region
). In the periods between Summits, CivicAction takes a role in incubating innovative initiatives designed to galvanize action in these priority areas.
For more information, visit www.civicaction.ca
Communications and Events Officer, CivicAction
(416) 309-4480 x509 (work)
(416) 992-4966 (cell)