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Climate change : insurers and environmentalists are converging towards a same goal


Denis Méthot

15 July 2019 11:30

Sophie Paradis

Streams and rivers in urban areas have often been buried or diverted from their natural bed in order to facilitate the development. With the increase of floods, the current trend in several countries and major cities around the world is to go back and revive these channels of natural water to reduce the effects of floods such as those that Quebec has known, in 2017 and 2019.

In the province, Intact Insurance has contributed to this movement by donating $ 100,000 to the project Blue Montreal to carry out a feasibility study of exhumation (” daylighting ” in English) of routes of natural water that have been channelled in the past in the metropolis. Today, experts want to revive in order to reduce the impact of flooding in certain neighbourhoods. This is a beautiful example of the rapprochement and of collaboration between an insurer and environmentalists around common goals.

Funding for the study of opportunity

Blue Montreal is one of the three pilot projects initiated by the canadian section of the world wide Fund for nature (WWF-Canada) in the framework of its programme of conservation of natural. Floods are one of the issues it considers urgent. The NGO is seeking sponsors to fund the feasibility studies. Intact Insurance has quickly supported the project Blue Montreal by allocating $ 100,000 to fund the study of opportunity.

“The goal of Blue Montreal is using urban rivers to help reduce the flooding, and the islands of heat in the city, two major effects of climate change, describes Rachel Benoit, executive assistant at Intact. The feasibility studies will be used to present a cost-benefit analysis to the City of Montreal in order to dig out of the rivers buried and to create new urban rivers in three districts already in the process of redevelopment. “

To this day, Intact has invested 4.25 million dollars for the creation of a Centre of climate adaptation at theUniversity of Waterloo, Ontario. The center for applied research defines best practices to help homeowners, communities, governments and businesses to implement solutions that will limit the effects of climate change.

The financial support of the Intact study on the project Blue Montreal was thus a natural for the insurer. The ball is now in the camp of the city of Montreal who will have to decide if it benefits the redevelopment of three districts to go in this direction.

The fate of the rivière St-Pierre

Over the centuries, as is the case in many large cities around the world, water courses, urban Montreal, have been channelized, buried or diverted in order to accentuate the development. Researchers from the University of Montreal have mapped ancient water courses in Montreal.

A map drawn in the 18th century shows dozens of waterways on the island of Montreal. There remains very little today : nearly 80 % would have been buried or channelled.

Map of ancient water courses of the island of Montreal in the 17th century

Source : University of Montreal

The rivière St-Pierre is one example. Books state that this river had its source in the west of the island. One of its branches led to the current Old Port, and the other thrown in the river and it formed a lake located on the premises of the Turcot interchange.

For centuries, the rivière St-Pierre has served as an open sewer. Before its degradation, in 1832, it was covered, channeled in the sector of Pointe-à-Callières, and then converted into a sewage collector in the name of public safety. Various other sections were buried between 1830 and 1960. In 1990, the manifold was sand-filled, and thus the complete disappearance of the river.

The consequences today

But even if it was deprived of its weirs on natural water flows always somewhere, and with the flood, the cities, like Montreal, that have been disappearing wetlands, streams, and entire rivers which were used as buffers or irrigation mechanisms in now pay the price, financial and social.

The waters flood the land, sub-soil, and sometimes from the streets of certain areas of the metropolis. These damages are experienced by many cities has led to an awareness of and a questioning of the past choices. This movement back to the natural ways started in Europe. Scientists are today increasingly value the role that these infrastructures are natural can play in reducing the effects of flooding.

“There is a reinstatement of the watercourses in the urban environment to help with flood problems and to the crisis of climate change,” explains the director, program Quebec for WWF-Canada, ecologist Sophie Paradise.

“Nature plays an important role : it is a powerful way to protect ourselves against the impacts of climate change,” adds Rachel Benoit. We are of the opinion that the infrastructure of natural should be considered as critical infrastructure. “

The renaissance of streams or rivers, urban, in addition to reducing the effects of a large flood, the population and the animals to regain access to the water and recreate living environments that are natural and inspirational. According to Sophie Paradis, the practical effects are very fast. As soon as an environment is renaturalisé or solutions, nature, the benefits are felt in less than six months.

The role of insurers in change

Sophie Paradis stresses the importance of the environment of insurers in land-use planning and climate adaptation strategies.

“If there are people outside of the ecologists who are well aware of climate change, it is the insurers, she said. For having seen the work of the people Intact, I know to what extent they are innovative and are preparing very well for the future. This is part of the many ways that will bring about change. The floods of 2017 and 2019 have demonstrated, we can’t always pay for bad decisions. It is necessary to return to good basic solutions, natural solutions that entail engineering. “

The establishment of the centre Resilience Blue

One of the major projects which is currently WWW-Canada to Quebec is the set up to the south of the province a Centre for research-action Resilience Blue.

“These are not all of the cities that have teams in the environment to manage the issues related to climate change, says Sophie Paradise. What we want is for you to help municipalities and citizens and to offer them practical solutions through a multi-sectoral approach. We have done enough studies. It is necessary to pass quickly to the acts to counter the effects of climate warming. “

The quebec section of the NGO WWF-Canada gives itself a year to create this centre Resilience Blue and hope to get the contribution of insurers to this major project to achieve this.

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