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The Ecology Action Centre is pleased to see comprehensive, clear reporting in the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s 2023 progress report. We appreciate that progress on each goal in the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act and Nova Scotia’s Climate Plan has been addressed in this report.
There have been some positive actions in the past year, such as the establishment of the Youth Climate Council, the Environmental Racism Panel and the Green Choice Program. There are also many inspiring stories of communities and municipalities who are stepping up in big ways to take action.
However, we are profoundly concerned that delays and political theatre will impede our ability to hit our targets.
For example, the Coastal Protection Act continues to be delayed despite extensive consultation, and there is no plan or timeline for this additional consultation process. This puts coastal communities and ecosystems at risk.
Discussion on the Atlantic Loop, a beneficial and time-bound project to decarbonize the grid and increase its resilience, has looked a lot more like political squabbling than effective and productive ‘engagement’ with the federal government. If an agreement on the Atlantic Loop takes much more time, Nova Scotia's goal of generating 80 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 will be in jeopardy.
In the report we also see multiple areas where we hoped for greater progress this year, as they require long lead times. For example, we are pleased the province will adopt new federal building codes, but we hope they will commit to a clear timeline and plan to reach net-zero ready standards on all new buildings by 2030, as B.C. did in its climate plan.
Likewise, we see a reiteration of the commitment of reaching 20 per cent land and water protection by 2030. This is an important goal, particularly in light of considerable pressure on our public lands, but there are only five months before the deadline to release a strategy for reaching this commitment. This is not a lot of time for this amount of work, especially as there are still numerous sites from the 2013 plan undesignated.
As disasters in the past year have made viscerally clear, climate change is a very real risk that is affecting Nova Scotia’s communities. The province needs to work constructively with municipalities and the federal government. There is no time for political squabbling.
What we need is leadership that is collaborative, urgent, thoughtful and informed. These are complex problems, and time is of the essence.