Environment featured

Ecology Action on Bill 213 at Law Amendments: A future worth being bold for

Marla MacLeod and Meghan McMorris of the Ecology Action Centre spoke at Law Amendments this afternoon on the proposed Bill 213, the Sustainable Development Goals Act. As always, the EAC submission is a solid piece of work, emphasizing the need for more aggressive climate goals and a full and participatory planning process.

The EAC submission includes a list of 13 new goals for the Act, some new (environmental racism, implement the Lahey report by 2023) others updated from the goals contained in the legislation’s predecessor Act. These goals are no longer included in the legislation, and will instead be set through regulation, a move that many feel will weaken the Act.

Meghan McMorris and Marla MacLeod. Photo Robert Devet

We would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here today on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Mi’kmaq people. 

I am Marla MacLeod, Managing Director of the Ecology Action Centre. I am going to speak more broadly to the Sustainable Development Goals Act and then my colleague Meghan McMorris, Community Energy Coordinator, will speak more specifically to our proposed amendments. 

We, the Ecology Action Centre, welcome the renewal of EGSPA, now titled the Sustainable Development Goals Act. We think it is highly beneficial for a society to set some strong environmental, economic and social goals and develop consensus around those goals. EGSPA has done much for Nova Scotia and a renewed Act can do even more in this time of climate emergency, biodiversity crisis and reconciliation. We believe the Act has benefited rural and urban Nova Scotia and we would ensure that this continues to be the case. 

We welcome the recognition in this Act that sustainable prosperity is important to all Departments and that there is a defined role for the Premier. As noted by the Roundtable in their letter, the Sustainable Development Goals Act needs to be at the centre of government operations and policy. There is a clear opportunity to integrate the work of the One Nova Scotia Initiative and that of Sustainable Development Goals Act. 

We support an annual progress report and a five year review of the Act. 

We welcome the renewal and expansion of the roundtable membership. It is critical to have Mi’kmaq, African-Nova Scotian and youth representation at the table. We applaud the sentiment of the inclusion of Netukulimk. We urge authentic consultation with Mi’kmaw communities to fully understand this concept and what it would mean for public policy to implement it fully. We would encourage the province to follow BC’s lead and adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

We support the title of the Act if the Government is serious about sustainable development. This would include transitioning to a low carbon, green and inclusive economy. This transition needs to happen if we are to address the climate and biodiversity crises and address environmental racism in Nova Scotia.

We do not support creating regulations for the purpose of moving most of goals into the regulations. The original architects put the goals in the Act for a reason. As legislators you can understand the heightened value of having the goals in the Act. 

We are proposing 13 new goals for the Act. Some of them are new areas that issue forestry or environmental racism, others are updated versions of existing goals in the Act (both achieved and in progress). We have provided you with a copy of these proposed goals. 

We would like to talk specifically about the climate goal. With the adoption of strong climate goals we see the opportunity for the Government of Nova Scotia to work closely with the Federal Government and in particular take advantage of any funding programs. 

We also support robust in person consultation on all goals and the rest of the Act. We realize that the time for action on climate was yesterday, but thoughtful and open consultation is important for creating social license and as much consensus as possible. We would suggest that the consultations start as soon as the House rises. 

Our first proposed amendment is to Section 7(b) which currently states that the Provincial government will legislate a greenhouse gas emissions target of 53% below 2005 levels, by the year 2030. We, the Ecology Action Centre, propose that the target be amended to 58% below 2005 levels, by the year 2030. 

We applaud the government for setting a target of net-zero emissions by the year 2050, but sections 2.4.1-2.4.3 of the IPCC Report clearly state that “the rate at which we decrease GHG emissions will determine whether or not we overshoot 1.5°C or 2°C of global temperature rise”1 . ‘Overshoot’ refers to a peak followed by a decline in global warming. 

The speed at which we move towards a target of net-zero emissions in 2050 will also determine the extent of the impacts of climate change on Nova Scotia. Therefore, a faster decline in GHG emissions, and a target of 58% below 2005 levels by 2030, will create a higher chance of staying within 1.5°C of global warming, and decrease the potential impacts of climate change within the province. 

While all jurisdictions must reduce their GHG emissions, both the IPCC Report and the Paris Agreement state that our emission reduction targets must reflect our fair share. The consideration of jurisdictions doing their fair share comes from the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which was enshrined in the internationally agreed upon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 1992. Almost 30 years later, it remains a core piece in 18 sections of the IPCC Report and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement. 

According to the independent and scientific analysis, of Climate Action Tracker, a GHG emissions reduction target of 58% below 2005 levels in the year 2030 would represent Canada, and its jurisdictions, fair share. Furthermore, it is the minimum necessary reduction required to be compliant with a 1.5° C global warming target. 

Finally, according to a report done by economic consultant Gardner Pinfold, we know that Nova Scotia stands to benefit from almost $9.8 Billion in added GDP between now and 2030, if it sets a GHG target of 58% below 2005 levels by 2030. Of that $9.8 Billion, nearly $6.3 Billion would be added income for Nova Scotians. 

Our second proposed amendment is to Section 14 (1) of Bill 213, which refers to public consultations. We propose that it be amended to explicitly specify that the consultations be in-person and participatory. 

The IPCC Report states that climate planning and action must be “…implemented in a participatory and integrated manner” (4.3.3, 4.4.1, 4.4.3). 

Taking a participatory approach to consultations would involve:  

  • Knowledge sharing  
  • Using existing community and sector relationships (I.e. community and network relationships)  
  • Respecting and leveraging community strengths and resources
  • Including communities in the design of the consultations
  • Engaging in co-learning and capacity building  
  • Raising the voices of underrepresented communities and communities currently subject to environmental racism  
  • And holding consultations based in treaty. 

All communities are different. The IPCC emphasizes this in its call to action to have governments pursue “place-specific” pathways, as they have the highest potential for also increasing the well-being of a place (5.3.3). Communities have different strengths, economic realities, comparative economic advantages, power dimensions, existing networks and community groups, concerns about climate change, and needs for climate change education, mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC Report emphasizes that there will be robust differences in the effects of climate change between regions and communities. For this reason, all communities in Nova Scotia must be engaged fully and in a participatory manner, so that sustainable development can occur within the context of their differentiated situations and realities. 

Many communities in Nova Scotia are leaders and are already planning and implementing innovative solutions to combat climate change, protect the environment, and foster a green economy. We propose that the Province team up with these leaders to host consultations to continue to build momentum. 

Finally, community-based academic research has proven that participatory methods have a higher chance of increasing trust, perceptions of legitimacy, and creating approaches to complex issues, such as sustainable development, that are more likely to succeed.

With GHG targets based in science and fairness, and the robust inclusion of all communities and stakeholders in the development of the goals, the Sustainable Communities Challenge Fund and the Climate Change Clean Growth Strategy, the Sustainable Development Goals Act has the potential to lay the foundation for a future where all Nova Scotians, our ecosystems and biodiversity can thrive. A future where the success of our economy is not at the expense of the well-being of our environment and communities. A future of inclusion, empowerment, innovation and resilience. This is a future worth being bold for. 

See also: Robin Tress on Bill 213 at Law Amendments: People are here to do the hard work of transforming our society

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