Protecting Canada’s Coastal Communities: Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation

A new report, Rising Seas and Shifting Sands: Combining Natural and Grey Infrastructure to Protect Canada’s Eastern and Western Coastal Communities, outlines the range of practical measures that can be used to protect coastal communities on Canada’s East and West coasts from flooding and erosion

Waterloo, ON (Dec. 10, 2021) – Coastal flooding and erosion are a direct threat to the health and safety of people living in coastal communities, and cause damage to local infrastructure and property. The majority of Canada’s coastal population are located along the East (Atlantic) and West (Pacific) coastlines, where sea levels are rising due to effectively irreversible climate change. Action is required now to manage the growing risks to coastal communities.

This report describes how Canada can scale-up the use of nature-based solutions, in tandem with grey infrastructure, to protect communities along the East and West coastlines. Importantly, action must consider natural processes along the coast to a greater extent than has occurred to date. Reduction of flooding and erosion at one site, if not carefully designed, can cause instability further along the coast and degradation of coastal ecosystems on which communities depend.

Canada does not yet have a strategic planning framework or standard classification of approaches for coastal risk management. Coastal risk management responses identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include Protection, Accommodation, Retreat and Avoidance, as well as non-intervention. A suite of options should be appraised to select appropriate approaches along Canada’s East and West coasts.

Coastal protection measures can be divided into two key categories:

  • Grey Infrastructure: hard, engineered coastal protection measures; and
  • Nature-Based Solutions: measures that depend on, or mimic, natural systems to manage flood and erosion risk,3 that may be a) predominantly sediment-based, such as adding sediment to beaches through beach nourishment, or b) predominantly vegetation-based, such as saltmarsh restoration.

Nature-based solutions, in particular, have a vital role to play in managing coastal flood and erosion risk in Canada. International experience and guidance demonstrate that these measures not only provide protection against coastal flooding and erosion, they also deliver multiple benefits, including improved biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, enhanced wellbeing and opportunities for recreational activities.

Three courses of action are recommended to scale-up the use of nature-based solutions for coastal protection in Canada:

  1. Develop national standards to support consistent evaluation of the benefits of nature-based solutions when comparing infrastructure options, including for coastal protection. This should include minimum requirements, regional-specific standards, engagement with Indigenous people and recommended methodologies for reflecting the financial value of benefits provided by nature-based solutions.
  2. Develop national monitoring standards for coastal protection measures, focused on nature-based solutions. This should include consideration of minimum monitoring requirements, as well as how monitoring should be tailored to document performance against project-specific objectives. Funding for long-term monitoring and engagement with Indigenous people could be considered as minimum monitoring requirements.
  3. Build capacity to finance and deliver nature-based solutions by engaging the private sector. Public-private partnerships can potentially assist in financing, delivering, monitoring, and maintaining nature-based solutions. The insurance industry can also assist in managing construction risks and offering innovative insurance products that provide funds to restore natural features protecting the coastline, should they be damaged during extreme events.

The outcomes of these actions will help governments and other organizations make robust management decisions regarding coastal flooding and erosion along Canada’s East and West coastlines.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in Canada, and globally, in preparing for climate change and sea-level rise along the coast, is a limited sense of urgency to act. For around the past 6,000 years, global sea-level has remained relatively steady. This makes the recent, comparably rapid rise in sea-level caused by human-induced climate change less easy to grasp. Decision makers in Canada must realize, sooner rather than later, that the sea level of the past will not be the sea level of the future, and prepare coastal communities accordingly.

Read more – access the full report:

About the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation

The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation (Intact Centre or ICCA) is an applied research centre at the University of Waterloo. The Intact Centre was founded in 2015 with a gift from Intact Financial Corporation, Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer. The Intact Centre helps homeowners, communities and businesses to reduce risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events. For more information, visit

About the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 42,000 full and part-time students (Fall 2020), the university is home to the world’s largest co-operative education system of its kind. The university’s unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. For more information about Waterloo, please visit

About the Standards Council of Canada

Established in 1970 as a federal Crown corporation, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is Canada’s voice on standards and accreditation on the national and international stage. SCC works closely with a vast network of partners to promote the development of effective and efficient standards that protect the health, safety and well-being of Canadians while helping businesses prosper. As Canada’s leading accreditation organization, SCC creates market confidence at home and abroad by ensuring that conformity assessment bodies meet the highest national and international standards. SCC advances Canada’s interest on the international scene as a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) by connecting thousands of people to global networks and resources, opening a world of possibilities for Canadians and businesses. For more information, visit

About the National Reseach Council of Canada

The National Research Council Canada (NRC) is the Government of Canada’s premier organization for research and development. The NRC partners with Canadian industry to take research impacts from the lab to the marketplace, where people can experience the benefits. This market-driven focus delivers innovation faster, enhances peoples’ lives and addresses some of the world’s most pressing problems. For more information, visit

About Intact Financial Corporation

Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC) is the largest provider of property and casualty (P&C) insurance in Canada, a leading provider of global specialty insurance, and, with RSA, a leader in the U.K. and Ireland. Our business has grown organically and through acquisitions to over $20 billion of total annual premiums. In Canada, Intact distributes insurance under the Intact Insurance brand through a wide network of brokers, including its wholly-owned subsidiary BrokerLink, and directly to consumers through belairdirect. Intact also provides affinity insurance solutions through the Johnson Affinity Groups. In the U.S., Intact Insurance Specialty Solutions provides a range of specialty insurance products and services through independent agencies, regional and national brokers, and wholesalers and managing general agencies. Outside of North America, the Company provides personal, commercial and specialty insurance solutions across the U.K., Ireland, Europe and the Middle East through the RSA brands. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo

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