P.E.I. government's climate adaptation plan aims to better prepare communities

“Climate change is our new reality and our province is acutely aware of its impacts to our seasons, our weather, and our shorelines,
“Climate change is our new reality and our province is acutely aware of its impacts to our seasons, our weather, and our shorelines,

The P.E.I. government has released a new plan aimed at better preparing for the future while lessening climate change impacts on Islanders.

The climate adaptation plan was created after more than 500 responses through online surveys, public engagement sessions and consultations with community partners.

The plan includes actions to support vulnerable populations, primary industries and natural habitats, according to a release from the province.

"Climate change is our new reality and our province is acutely aware of its impacts to our seasons, our weather, and our shorelines. We see it every day and we know we're in for more," said Steven Myers, minister of environment, energy and climate action.

"The task falls to us to ensure that our Island remains resilient in the face of growing climate impact while achieving our net-zero goals."

Government of P.E.I.
Government of P.E.I.

Myers said the department has been working on the project for more than a year, and the plan will take about five years to roll out.

"Climate change is already happening and how do we help adapt for coastal flooding, heat waves, ice storms — all the things we know are going to happen because of climate change," Myers said.

"Everyone has just been through Fiona so we know what that felt like and we know that is going to happen more often."

The plan breaks down specific areas like agriculture, Myers said.

"The social aspect of it, the infrastructure aspect of the land use parts of it," he said.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

Lessons from Fiona

The plan also looks at what to do during a post-tropical storm or coastal flooding and looks at how the Island can better protect itself against before, during and after potential power outages, Myers said.

"We know the North Shore of Prince Edward Island was hit very hard with the coastal surges so we know we have to make changes there and it may be changes with where people can actually build, how close they can build, whether they can build there or not, and what type of adaptations might be allowed to protect the land from storm surges," Myers said.

The storm is providing a lot of insight into the plan, according to Myers. He said it demonstrated what communities were ready for the storm, which weren't, and how the government can better help in storm preparedness.

The next step for the provincial government is to start initiating some of the ideas in the plan and to secure some funding from Ottawa to make it all a reality, Myers said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

'Past the point of talking about it'

Green MLA Hannah Bell, environment critic for the Official Opposition, said she's pleased the province has a plan but that it should have been put out sooner and it doesn't have enough details.

"There is no timeline, there is no budget, there is no commitment on deliverables," Bell said.

"What are we going to do about climate change? We are way past the point of talking about it. We are at the point of needing to have done something about it five years ago."

The report talks about things many Islanders already know and doesn't commit to actual action, Bell said, adding Myers should have put the five-year timeline he spoke of in the document.

"There are some really critical actions in there, in fact a lot the actions that are in the report are things we have been hearing about just in the last couple weeks from all of our expert witnesses who have been coming into committee meetings," Bell said.

"It makes me feel like the report may have been written over the last weekend."

Storm preparedness 

Bell said she is happy with the scope of the report in terms of how it looks at the impact of climate change on people, the environment and businesses.

However she said she's not confident the plan will be implemented in a timely manner, and is worried actions could be ignored — especially with respect to storm preparedness measures following Fiona.

"Everything that we experienced in Fiona was identified in the Dorian report three years ago — we didn't do any of that," she said.

The full plan can be found on the province's website.