Media Statement: Costing climate change impacts to public infrastructure project

Media Statement

Costing Climate Change Impacts to Public Infrastructure Project

Monday, December 6, QP Media Studio

Good afternoon, I’m Peter Weltman, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer.  

Thank you for joining us today.

It’s great to be back in the media studio to discuss our latest reports, Costing Climate Change Impacts to Public Infrastructure project, which will be released tomorrow (December 7, 2021) at 9:00 a.m. 

The CIPI project began in 2019 after a Member of Provincial Parliament asked the FAO to analyze the costs that climate change impacts could impose on Ontario’s provincial and municipal infrastructure, and on the long-term budget outlook of the province.

The buildings report is the first of several sector reports that will assess the costs of certain climate change hazards on different types of public infrastructure.

The report assesses the financial impacts of three climate hazards: extreme rainfall, extreme heat, and freeze-thaw cycles on provincial and municipally owned public building infrastructure in Ontario. 

Ontario’s provincial and municipal governments currently own and manage a large portfolio of buildings and facilities, worth about $254 billion.

These public buildings have long service lives and maintaining this portfolio of assets over the century will require substantial ongoing spending even in the absence of climate change.

Our report finds that the estimated costs of maintaining Ontario’s current portfolio of public buildings and facilities in a state of good repair would be $10.1 billion per year on average, totalling about $799 billion over the rest of the century (to 2100). This is what it would have cost in a stable climate.

However, climate change is making it even more expensive to maintain this portfolio of public assets.

In the absence of adaptation measures, changes in extreme rainfall, extreme heat, & freeze-thaw cycles will require more operations and maintenance activities and more frequent repairs to address the accelerated deterioration of public buildings.

Over the remainder of this decade, we project that these climate hazards will add roughly $6 billion to the costs of maintaining Ontario’s portfolio of public buildings and facilities in a state of good repair.

In fact, the costs of these climate hazards will continue to grow to 2100 and will be directly influenced by the extent of global climate change.

In a medium emissions scenario, where global emissions peak in the 2040s then rapidly decline, the costs to maintain Ontario’s public buildings in a state of good repair to 2100 would be $66 billion higher than they would have been in a stable climate.

In a high emissions scenario, where global emissions continue to grow for the rest of the century, the additional costs would be $116 billion higher over the century.

This represents an additional $0.8 billion to $1.5 billion per year in additional infrastructure costs, on average, depending on the emissions scenario.

The FAO also explored the financial implications of adapting Ontario’s public buildings to withstand more extreme climate hazards.   

While adaptation will have significant fiscal implications on municipal and provincial budgets, it is modestly less costly for provincial and municipal governments than not-adapting. It also carries significant, but un-costed benefits, such as minimizing the disruption of public services.

We have all seen the catastrophic impact of extreme rainfall that took place a couple of weeks ago in southern B.C., as essential bridges and highways were unable to sustain the impacts of the heavy rain.

What happened in B.C. underscores the importance of work like this, which quantifies the budgetary impact climate hazards will have on public infrastructure.

Overall, climate change will affect many aspects of Ontario’s economy and society, including many types of infrastructure.

As our report shows, it will also materially increase the cost of maintaining public buildings in Ontario and will have significant direct impacts on provincial and municipal infrastructure budgets.

Thank you.

I would be happy to respond to any questions. Il me ferait plaisir de répondre à vos questions.

Media inquiries

Anna Giannini, (A) Team Lead, Communications