Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) – On Wednesday, October 27, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister, the Honourable Tim Halman, tabled Bill No. 57: Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act. This much-anticipated bill (EGCCRA) is intended to guide Nova Scotia in its response to the climate emergency. The bill uses “emergency” language, but unfortunately, it doesn’t reflect the necessary urgency in its substance or timeline.
The bill is stronger than the Sustainable Development Goals Act that it replaces. EGCCRA exceeds the platform commitments of the PC Party, showing that this government is truly ready to exceed our expectations when it comes to climate change. However, as longtime climate campaigner and writer Bill McKibben has said, “When it comes to climate change, winning slowly is the same as losing.” This bill mandates incremental change but does not guarantee that the province will reduce its emissions by 2022, or even by 2025. This is the critical decade for climate action according to climate scientists, so targets for 2040 and 2050 don’t mean much at this point. The bill falls short of the measures that scientific consensus has deemed necessary to address the climate emergency.
In order for a government to adequately respond to the urgency of the climate emergency, its climate policy must meet five markers:
Spending what it takes to win
The first marker of a government in true emergency mode is “spending what it takes to win.” This means investing 2% of annual GDP on climate investments to reduce emissions. In Nova Scotia, this amounts to $756.2 million annually, based on Nova Scotia’s 2019 GDP. Budgets are a key aspect of policy implementation, and we will be watching the next provincial budget, which must reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.
Creating new institutions to get the job done
The second marker is “creating new institutions to get the job done.” During the Second World War—the last time our country successfully mobilized at the speed and scale required to address the climate crisis—the federal government established 28 crown corporations to ensure the proper roll out of resources. As this was an ‘all-hands on deck’ moment, there was a big role for the private sector, but the government determined the necessary speed and scale. We need a similar response today. Provincially, this would entail establishing public institutions to oversee the roll out of deep energy retrofits, ensure that the demand for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) is met, ensure zero-carbon transit, and more.
Mandating change rather than incentivizing change
Yet in order to have such institutions, we’d require targets for those institutions to meet. The third marker of a government in emergency mode is “mandating change rather than incentivizing change.” Much like the enforceable directives seen in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we need mandates that apply to everyone. The mandates need clear, short-term deadlines with firm targets. Examples could be:
- Immediately prohibiting any fossil fuel extraction, export, exploration, or permits.
- No on-site fossil fuel hookups in new construction starting in 2023
- No on-site fossil fuel use in buildings by 2030 and on-site fossil fuel use phased out of 20% of the buildings currently using it by 2025
- Banning the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles beyond 2025
- Making all new construction net zero energy ready by 2023.
Most mandates in this bill were set for 2030 or later, well beyond the time that this government can assume to be in power, or responsible for implementing such mandates, and much too late to constitute emergency action. A good start would be including annual emissions-reduction targets in the bill or climate plan.
Telling the truth about the severity of the crisis and the measures necessary to combat it
The fourth marker of a government in emergency mode is “telling the truth about the severity of the crisis and the measures necessary to combat it.” The provincial and federal governments have set good examples of truth telling and transparency as they respond to COVID-19. They’ve utilized daily briefings and regular communications with the public through every form of media—from Instagram to TV to newspapers. This level of transparency and communication is essential to get the public on board and build trust. School curriculums will need to be upgraded to include robust education on the climate crisis and environmental racism. We also need to ensure that teachers get the support and training they need to integrate climate justice into all subjects.
Leaving no one behind
Finally, any climate bill or plan must ensure it leaves no one behind. We applaud that the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act includes the principles of Netukulimk (a Mi’kmaw concept of resource sharing) and equity. If a government were to act at the speed and scale required, it would need to spend an additional 2% of its annual GDP on the social supports required to ensure no one is left behind. This means spending on housing, green infrastructure for rural communities, retraining for fossil fuel workers (like the 600 people who will be impacted by the coal phase out), a green jobs training program for anyone who wants it, and a plan to address environmental racism, in part through targeted spending in historically marginalized communities, like Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities. With this targeted support, low- and modest-income households would have lower energy costs as long as they get the help they need to transition to zero-emission heating and transportation.
Even though this bill doesn’t come close to meeting the urgency of the crisis, it needs to pass so that we can start acting on the climate crisis immediately. As the latest IPCC Report stated, we are in Code Red for climate; we have no time to lose. We remain hopeful that our Premier and Ministers will step into this moment and show the leadership that is needed. It has been only eight weeks since the provincial cabinet was announced and six weeks since the mandate letters were delivered to each minister. Already, with this bill, the Minister has exceeded the climate deliverables in the mandate letter. This is encouraging. But we need him to do it again, and to go much further.
The next big opportunity for the provincial government to show that it can be a leader in combating the climate crisis will be with the climate plan, which we hope will be released before spring 2022. This plan needs to meet all five of the markers noted above.
- Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - Nova Scotia
- Climate Emergency Unit
- The Council of Canadians
- Ecology Action Centre
- Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association
- For Our Kids Nova Scotia
- Kairos Halifax
- Music Declares Emergency Canada
- Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace
- School Strike for Halifax
- Sierra Club Canada Foundation