Nonprofit Sector Playing a Crucial Role in Response to Climate-Related Disasters
Over the course of this summer and the past several years, we have followed worrisome reports of weather disasters happening across the country and around the globe. While there have always been catastrophic weather events, experts agree that the frequency and severity of these events is increasing due to climate change.
Currently, a majority of the population of the Northwest Territories has been evacuated due to the threat of wildfire, while Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia have also experienced record, destructive wildfire seasons. Catastrophic and deadly floods have impacted Nova Scotia and Quebec. Southern Ontario and Quebec have been hit with multiple tornadoes. The Atlantic provinces are preparing for hurricane season, as clean up from last year’s historic Hurricane Fiona is not yet complete. Our communities have experienced record breaking heat several times in multiple regions. Our hearts are with those who have been impacted by these troubling events and with the nonprofit workers and others who are contributing to the disaster response.
Across the country, as these disasters unfold, nonprofits and charities have been working tirelessly to serve their communities in adverse conditions. Many have risen to the challenge of providing housing, clothing, food, hygienic products and more to those who have been displaced by various disasters. When communities face heat waves, many charities and nonprofits check in on vulnerable populations or provide cool spaces for these individuals to cool off. Environmental charities are helping communities build their climate resiliency by adopting climate change adaptations and advocating for climate solutions. Canadian charities are also responding to the climate crisis on a global scale; humanitarian organizations are responding to events such as last year’s flooding in Pakistan while immigrant and refugee settlement agencies are welcoming climate migrants to Canada. The scale of need is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years; in 2019 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies projected that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance due to climate-related disasters could double to 200 million by 2030.
At the same time as charities and nonprofits respond to the climate crisis, they are also feeling its impacts. Many organizations are facing increased demand for their services and new types of demand. When a disaster hits the community where a nonprofit functions, they are often faced with business continuity challenges caused by damage to property, power outages, inability to reach their property, and evacuations. When a community evacuates, the organizations in the communities hosting evacuees must respond and provide services. The nonprofit sector is also currently experiencing difficulties caused by a hard insurance market, which occurs when insurance companies adopt measures to deal with increased claims and low investment returns. Increased claims caused by weather disasters may only make this situation worse.
The nonprofit sector is and will continue to play a crucial role in the response to increasingly frequent and intense weather disasters. The past several years have been challenging for the nonprofit sector as it has faced the pandemic, economic woes, a labour shortage, and these weather events in quick succession. If you are able to, please consider donating, volunteering or otherwise supporting nonprofits who have responded to or have been impacted by weather disasters. We also call on the federal government to take concrete actions, such as making funding practices more equitable and effective and the creation of a home in government, to support the resilience of the nonprofit sector as it faces the climate crisis and is called upon by government to help with disaster response. Additionally, we call on the government to ensure the inclusion of nonprofits in environmental tax incentives such as the Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit to support our sector in contributing to Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.