Our process helps Canada achieve sustainable development solutions that integrate environmental and economic considerations to ensure the lasting prosperity and well-being of our nation.


We rigorously research and conduct high quality analysis on issues of sustainable development. Our thinking is original and thought provoking.


We convene opinion leaders and experts from across Canada around our table to share their knowledge and diverse perspectives. We stimulate debate and integrate polarities. We create a context for possibilities to emerge.


We generate ideas and provide realistic solutions to advise governments, Parliament and Canadians. We proceed with resolve and optimism to bring Canada’s economy and environment closer together.

Paying the Price – Ecosystems

Our entire well-being — economic and otherwise — relies on healthy, functioning ecosystems. Ecosystem stress from climate change will play out across Canada’s economy in some unexpected ways.

Canada is rich in ecosystem diversity, with 15 distinct ecozones on land and five marine-based ones. Increasingly, there is understanding of the economic value and linkage of ecosystems based on the services they provide to both our environment and our economy. A changing climate is altering the quality and health of Canada’s ecosystems, some of which are already under pressure from pollution, overuse, habitat fragmentation, and introduction of invasive species. Alongside assessing potential ecological changes in future climates, communities and governments the world over are considering ecosystem conservation and restoration as an option that delivers climate adaptation and mitigation co-benefits.

Ecosystems perform a range of services that matter to our health, our economy, and our overall prosperity. Yet, much of their value remains economically invisible. An analysis of the economics of climate change that excludes welfare implications of shifts in ecosystem services understates the costs of inaction. We miss an important part of the climate change impact story. And it runs the risk of either under- or overstating the costs and benefits of options to adapt to and limit the impacts of climate change.

Paying the Price looks at the economic consequences of climate change on Canada’s national parks and fisheries habitat in forested lands as illustrations of the more tangible connections between ecosystems and the economy — two very small examples in a universe of possible impacts.


Canada’s National Parks

Canada’s National Parks generate value in many ways: as iconic symbols of Canadian identity; as cultural and spiritual places; by protecting the genetic diversity of plants and animals; and by performing important services such as water purification, pollination, and soil stabilization, and many more. So what could visitor patterns to National Parks look like in a changing climate? What about spending by parks’ organizations and visitors, and the jobs, income for local businesses, and tax revenues that flow from this spending?

Climate change could increase visits to the top 15 national parks on average by 6% to 8% by the 2020s, 9% to 29% by the 2050s, and 10% to 41% by the 2080s. Under the highest climate change scenario, half the parks assessed would see a doubling of visits by the 2080s. On a yearly basis, visitor spending for five Canadian parks alone could be $26 million more in the 2020s and $48 million more in the 2050s than would have been the case without climate change.

Annual increase in visitor spending due to climate change

Higher influxes of visitors to parks also mean higher operating costs for parks managers, including the cost of putting in place measures to safeguard the ecological integrity of parks and the safety of park visitors.

Fish impacts in a changing climate

Landscapes across Canada dotted with lakes and streams provide habitat for diverse communities of plants and animals, and many valued recreation benefits. In 2005, spending on recreational fishing in Canada totalled about $7.9 billion, with one-third of that spending occurring in Ontario. Warmer climates are likely to lead to range contractions and reduced abundance of lake trout, which are likely to require more energy to function in warmer waters. Based on statistical relationships between forecast air temperatures and lake characteristics, one study suggests an overall drop in suitable habitat for lake trout in Ontario by 30% to 40% by the end of the century in a high climate change scenario. In Ontario this could mean $9 million less per year in income generated due to the loss of lake trout fishing opportunities.


Strategies that promote healthy and productive ecosystems can help secure the flow of services we derive from them in the face of climate change. Three broad strategies are apparent. One includes using market mechanisms to set up incentives for households, businesses, and communities to restore, conserve, and enhance ecosystem services. Internationally and here in Canada, governments and others are assessing options for the development of carbon markets with schemes that value the carbon absorbed by forests and soils. A second strategy emphasizes the expansion of conservation areas including parks and protected areas. Ecosystems in park systems, like our own, are managed for ecological integrity as opposed to economic development outcomes. As such they are important vehicles to enhance ecosystem resilience. Our national parks could well form conservation nodes, in connection with other provincial and territorial parks and areas that are lightly managed — including tracts of private land. Maintaining corridors between the nodes becomes a key part of the strategy in order to help facilitate the movement of plants and animals as well as gene flows. A third and related strategy is to invest in conserving and restoring natural ecosystems and green spaces in developed areas as a way to complement other policy objectives including climate change adaptation and mitigation. For example, investments in wetland protection have been shown to yield cost savings in disaster prevention.