Nova Scotia’s government has introduced new environmental targets that would be the most aggressive in the country, but at least one environmentalist says they need to go even further.
Environment Minister Gordon Wilson tabled the Sustainable Development Goals Act on Wednesday at Province House. While many of the goals are to be set at a later date through regulations, the bill enshrines in law emission reduction targets.
The bill calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, moving the province to a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050 and creating a new fund to help communities fight climate change and grow the economy.
Wilson said the goals are based on science and in line with United Nations targets. Although the net zero target is also in line with what the federal Liberal Party was proposing in the recent election, Wilson said all the goals reflect what he’s been hearing from Nova Scotians.
‘We were listening’
The minister said the recent climate strike protest that saw more than 10,000 people converge on downtown Halifax made an impression on him.
“I know one person said to me — and I really appreciated when I was in the crowd with them — they said, ‘I hope you’re listening,’ and we were listening and we know that this is an urgent crisis that we have right now in front of us,” said Wilson.
Just how the government will achieve its goals remains to be seen. Wilson said that would be defined in a climate change strategy that will be released by the end of 2020 following extensive consultation with the public.
Neither the minister or a department official would say if meeting the goals would require Nova Scotia Power to reduce its use of coal. Generating electricity accounts for 45 per cent of the province’s emissions and the power company uses coal to produce about 55 per cent of its power.
About a third of the province’s emissions come from the transportation sector.
The policy director of the Ecology Action Centre, Mark Butler, called it a big day and said he was pleased to see the new goals and hear that there would be time for thorough public consultation.
His colleague, Stephen Thomas, the group’s energy campaign co-ordinator, also welcomed the bill but said the new targets don’t go far enough in terms of the province doing its fair share to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees.
While the province is proposing to get down to 11 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, Thomas said his organization thinks it needs to be 9.8 megatonnes, a gap he said can be closed with even more focus on renewables, energy efficiency and transportation initiatives.
The new bill would replace the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, the targets for which are scheduled to expire in 2020. The province has met most, but not all of those targets.
Opposition leaders want more details
Tory Leader Tim Houston said he’d like to see stronger targets for emission reduction and more details about how the government plans to reach those goals.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said even the goals that have yet to be developed need to be enshrined in legislation, in particular renewable targets.
“These are very important matters, our environmental goals. They’re not matters to be hidden away. They’re matters to be debated and decided on by the public of Nova Scotia democratically and that’s what we do through law,” said Burrill.