N.S. pledges to end use of coal for electricity 10 years earlier than scheduled

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A wind turbine is framed by a sun dog, an atmospheric phenomenon, on Dalhousie Mountain, N.S.  (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A wind turbine is framed by a sun dog, an atmospheric phenomenon, on Dalhousie Mountain, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government has introduced legislation that will enshrine in law 28 goals related to addressing climate change, including ending the use of coal to generate electricity 10 years earlier than scheduled.

The bill, tabled Wednesday by Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman, includes goals such as supplying 80 per cent of the province's electricity using renewables by 2030, reducing emissions to at least 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieving net zero by 2050.

Much of the bill is similar to legislation the former Liberal government introduced and passed in 2019, but the Liberals did not place the goals in the act. Instead, they left them to be developed through consultation and then placed in regulations. The bill was never proclaimed.

Halman told reporters at Province House that isn't good enough.

"Legislation is powerful and it holds government to a far greater level of accountability and transparency," he said.

Goals follow consultation

The bill will also require annual reporting to the legislature by the end of July each year. The former government had stopped providing annual reports several years before tabling its own bill.

The goals in the Tory bill stem from 60 days of public consultation conducted last spring and summer by the Clean Foundation. More than 5,600 individual ideas were submitted through that process, which was commissioned by the former government.

"It was clear from the feedback that Nova Scotians want the well-being of people and the planet to come first," said Halman.

As part of that, the bill calls for equity to be a consideration across government as various departments work toward meeting the goals, which also include:

  • Phasing out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030.

  • Ensuring all new government buildings are net zero and climate resilient.

  • Work with First Nations and municipalities on their climate change priorities.

  • Expanding extended producer responsibility and reducing solid waste disposal rates to no more than 300 kilograms per person by 2030.

The path to achieving these goals will be set out in several reports that are scheduled to come beginning next spring. They include a climate change plan and climate change risk assessment.

Opposition mostly supportive

It will also require help. Government officials acknowledged Wednesday the proposed Atlantic Loop project is "a fundamental component" of meeting the goals in the bill.

NDP environment critic Susan Leblanc welcomed the decision to put the goals into legislation and the return of annual reporting, but she doesn't think the target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is strong enough.

"We would like to see a 58 per cent reduction below 2005 levels," she said. "We know from the 2030 declaration that 58 is what we should be shooting for; it meets more international obligations."

Leblanc said the government could find itself in a position of needing to do more depending on what comes out of COP26, the United Nations climate change summit beginning this weekend in Glasgow.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said the bill is the result of a lot of work that happened ahead of August's election.

"It's a good bill. We'll support it," he told reporters at Province House.

Clearer picture on Lahey report

The legislation also gives, for the first time, a concrete timeline for when the Lahey report on forestry practices could come into effect.

The legislation calls for an ecological forestry approach on Crown lands to be implemented by 2023. William Lahey, the report's author, delivered the document to the former government in August 2018.

Rankin said he thinks things should happen sooner than that. He said the forest management guide is ready and should be immediately implemented.

"A lot of people want to see ecological forestry adopted and there's no reason why it should take that long," he said. "It's just going to be more clear cutting on a lot of the land, especially in western Nova Scotia."

Leblanc agreed, saying the Lahey report has been in the government's hands for many years.

"We should just get to it," she said.

Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton said he's waiting for a progress evaluation report from Lahey, which he expects to come any day. While there's still work to be done, Rushton said the public will notice changes well before 2023.

Some people in the woods are already practising new approaches to silviculture and he expects future action on the ground before the end of this year.

"This is a huge culture change within the forestry sector. I don't expect to change overnight," he said.

"We need to do it right the first time around."

Environment Department officials said the bill will be proclaimed as soon as it's passed, which could be as early as next week.

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