KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Environmentalists have long argued that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is not only an urgent and critical necessity for our planet’s survival, it’s also good for the economy.
Now a new report, Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act: Economic Costs and Benefits of Proposed Goals (Sept 2019), written by Gardner Pinfold Consultants for the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) quantifies these benefits for Nova Scotia.
By necessity high level, it’s an excellent piece of work nonetheless, and very necessary to help focus the discussion we need to have. However, the report does not go far enough in terms of environmental justice and tackling the dominance of car culture.
15,000 new green jobs
Tackling the climate crisis in Nova Scotia would result in 15,000 new green jobs (representing $6.3 billion in wages), and an increase of $9.8 billion to the province’s overall GDP by 2030, the report shows.
The climate goals that accomplish these gains were set by the EAC, and include aggressive targets in terms of renewable electricity, energy efficiency, and a switch to public transit and electric and hybrid cars.
The report suggests that if these targets were to be adopted by the government they would result in a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030. This would ensure that the province meets the Paris Agreement objective of keeping global warming increases within 1.5%.
Why the report is so timely
The report was created in response to the government’s call for input into the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which is due for an update. The legislation’s current targets do not extend beyond 2020.
That feedback is through a website only, and that’s not good enough, said Stephen Thomas, Energy Campaign Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, at the launch of the report this morning.
“It’s critical that we have broad in person public consultations,” Thomas said. “The renewal of this Act and the public consultations can help to ensure that folks actually have a voice. Those who are most impacted by climate change are the people who we really need to hear from when we are proposing solutions to climate change, to reducing emissions and growing the green economy.”
Muskrat Falls, not so green
The EAC expects the lionshare of the GHG emission reduction to be accomplished by supplying 90% of the province’s electricity needs with renewables by 2030, rather than using coal, biomass, and oil.
It’s however disconcerting to see that the EAC expects roughly 20% of that renewable energy to be supplied through Muskrat Falls in Labrador. Muskrat Falls raises serious climate justice issues in terms of Indigenous rights and methyl mercury poisoning of traditional food sources.
“You’re right to bring up the very real land and Indigenous rights issues when it comes to large hydro. The province’s plans, as they are, include Muskrat Falls. We count Muskrat Falls as a dam that’s already built and accounted for. But we’ve been careful not to propose any new large hydro as part of our analysis,” Stephens said in response to a question about this issue.
Retrofitting social housing
To meet its energy efficiency targets the report suggests, apart from the familiar incentive programs, a complete and radical energy retrofit of all existing social housing stock in the province.
The report refers to a similar program in Holland, which has successfully retrofit 1300 units to a standard that is 80% more efficient than new homes built to current building code standards.
Cars and public transportation
A final section of the report deals with the reduction of car use and corresponding increase in public transit use, as well as a switch to electric and hybrid cars.
It was disappointing to see that the report anticipates a reduction by a mere 29,000 cars on the road during rush hour in HRM by 2030.
The report, unlike most other green new deal plans, seems to anticipate that people will continue to pay for transit.
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