Environment and climate change minister Tim Halman says he knows the state of the climate crisis is “at a pivotal moment” and that its effects are already being felt in Nova Scotia. “People will be watching us closely, as they should,” the Progressive Conservative minister said Wednesday. “Nova Scotians want government to take action.”
As an example of action, Halman presented a proposed bill which comes with 28 legislated environment targets. These include ending the use of coal for electricity by 2030, achieving net zero by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 53 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Iain Rankin’s Liberal government introduced a similar environmental target bill while in power, but it was never proclaimed. Unlike the previous Liberal bill, the PC one has its targets written into legislation. Halman says this gives the climate change reduction plan more teeth.
“Legislation is powerful. It holds government to a far greater level of accountability and transparency,” he said. This proposed bill also comes with a promise of using 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, and reducing Nova Scotians’ solid waste disposal rate to no more than 300kg per person per year by 2030, down from about 400kg of trash.
Noreen Mabiza, the Ecology Action Centre’s energy coordinator for sustainable communities, says she’s pleased with the proposed legislation, but the PC’s plan still falls short of what’s needed. “We’re thrilled to see the wide-ranging targets that are being embedded into legislation. Now we need accountability, follow-through and immediate action to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies,” Mabiza said Wednesday afternoon.
“So we see today as a good start, but it’s not enough,” she said.
Mabiza would specifically like to see the government’s plan for how it will achieve these targets. Halman said a provincial climate change plan, which will lay out specifically how goals will be met, will be shared in spring 2022. But that could be six months from now, making Mabiza concerned about the plan’s lack of urgency. “I want to see more immediate action from the government,” she said.
The NDP’s environment critic Susan Leblanc would agree. She says while she’s very happy with many components of the new plan, the target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is weak at 53 percent. Leblanc thinks the province should aim five percent higher.
“We would like to see a 58 percent reduction below 2005 levels,” Leblanc told reporters following the bill briefing. “We know from the 2030 Declaration that 58 percent is what we should be shooting for, it meets more international obligations.”
“While it is encouraging to see environmental goals moved out of regulation and back into law, the Conservatives’ plan lacks the urgency that this moment requires,” Leblanc said of the PCs.
On the other hand, Leblanc said she’s pleased with the promise of annual reporting on climate change efforts, and to see that the targets will be enshrined in law. Liberal leader Iain Rankin agreed that the bill was largely positive and said he’d support it.
It’s not clear how much the efforts tied to the PC climate change bill will cost the province, but Halman agrees it goes well beyond the party’s campaign plan of $7.4 million in environmental spending.
“The cost of doing nothing is far greater,” the environment minister said.
The government presented 28 legislated climate change reduction targets in a proposed bill. How all of these targets will be met will not be clear until the province's climate change plan is released in spring 2022. Some of these goals are specific, some are vague. Some have stated deadlines and some do not. Here are all 28.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emission by 53% below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Be net-zero by 2050.
- Create and report on a climate change plan.
- Establish a zero emission vehicle mandate to ensure 30% of car sales are zero emission vehicles by 2030.
- 80% renewable energy by 2030.
- Support energy efficiency programming while prioritizing benefits for low-income and marginalized Nova Scotians.
- Complete provincial climate change risk assessment which will be updated every five years.
- Phase-out coal fired electricity generation by 2030.
- Adopt the 2020 National Energy Code for Buildings, which will reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and increased energy efficiency of building by 2030.
- Complete core active transportation networks and develop a provincial active transportation strategy.
- Demonstrate government leadership by ensuring new buildings are net zero and climate resilience, reducing GHG emissions from existing buildings by 75% and working with landlords to “green” leased space.
- Work with municipalities and First Nations on their climate change priorities.
- Require all government departments to plan for the impacts of climate change. Lands and forestry goals
- Implement an ecological forestry approach for Crown lands.
- Conserve at least 20% of total land and water mass and developer a collaborative protected areas strategy. Clean air and water goals
- Manage NS air zones and review and update air emissions targets and ambient air standards.
- Develop provincial water quality objective and address barriers Nova Scotians face to testing and treatment of rural wells. Environmental assessment goal
- Modernize the environmental assessment process to include consideration of cumulative impacts, Netukulimk, diversity, equity and inclusion, climate change and independent review. Aquaculture and food goals
- Support low impact, sustainable aquaculture.
- Develop a provincial food strategy and support consumption of local food. Circular economy and waste goal
- Encourage the growth of the circular economy, including expanding extended producer responsibility, reducing single-use plastics and reducing solid waste disposal rates to no more than 300 kg per person per year by 2030. Procurement goal
- Increase innovation, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and consider community benefits in government procurement. Supporting business goals
- Encourage innovative, sustainable green businesses to establish in or relocate to NS.
- Work with small businesses to further enable them in taking action to reduce emissions. Supporting youth goal
- Support in sustainability-based youth employment leadership programs. Training goal
- Modernize apprenticeship programs so the province has the tradespeople needed to meet the demands of a clean economy. Education goal
- Update curriculum to promote and support climate change education and sustainability, through the knowledge and teachings of Netukulimk—environment stewardship—and Etuaptmumk, or two-eyed seeing. Diversity, equity and inclusion goal
- Initiate work with racialized and marginalized communities to create a sustained funding opportunity and support community-based solutions and policy engagement.