Tackling the climate and biodiversity emergencies necessitates taking immediate action to phase out the use of fossil fuels and reduce emissions from the energy sector. Together with improving energy efficiency, increasing our generation of wind-powered electricity is a critical component of Nova Scotia’s responsibility to do its share of emissions reduction from electricity.
The Ecology Action Centre supports increased wind power and other genuinely renewable electricity sources (not biomass) to support the quick transition to a low carbon future and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The climate emergency is an existential crisis that threatens our food security, fishing and farming livelihoods, coastal infrastructure, public safety, health, and our fellow species. Addressing the climate emergency requires everyone to take action. This includes a general acceptance that we will, by necessity and at the very least, need to build new wind turbines in our province. As more and more sectors in Nova Scotia begin electrifying, the source of that electricity becomes increasingly important - we simply cannot continue to burn coal, fossil fuels, and biomass, with all of their negative health and environmental impacts.
However, the EAC’s support for wind power generation is conditional on where wind farms are being placed and how decisions are being made. Despite the numerous benefits of wind power generation, if wind developments are built in the wrong places they can perpetuate ecological degradation, environmental racism, and harmful industrial practices. We support wind generation under the following conditions:
- A comprehensive land use planning process is conducted which includes the spatial mapping of important values like ecological connectivity across the landscape, biodiversity hotspots, species at risk, ecotourism, iconic viewscapes, cultural significance, and other land uses. Comprehensive land use planning must come from a place of recognizing that we have already degraded much of Nova Scotia's land, water, and wildlife populations. Wind farms should be located at sites that minimize the impact on sensitive ecosystems and cultural landscapes.
- Acceleration of biodiversity protection is needed at the same time as we ramp up clean energy production. Some of the locations proposed for wind projects are in the last remaining, natural, unroaded parts of Nova Scotia – the very areas that should be protected to preserve species at risk and habitat connectivity. Without more assertive and rapid biodiversity protection by the province, such as through protected area designations and core habitat designations, the biodiversity we are trying to save through greening our grid will be lost as a result of our imbalanced efforts.
- Mi’kmaw sovereignty and rights are respected. Under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mi’kmaq have the right to free, prior and informed consent for any project that may affect them and their territory.
- Communities are given a say in where wind developments are sited. Historically, large-scale developments have perpetuated environmental racism toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities particularly. They also often ignore the needs and desires of rural communities generally who are impacted by industrial developments. The wind industry must not repeat these mistakes, and must respect communities’ right to self-determination.
- An analysis of community benefits is presented and afforded to communities. Regions that have wind generation in their community should have access to additional benefits from the project. Some examples could include: energy rebates, priority for employment and training opportunities, reduced property taxes, economic partnerships, access to the power being generated, or other benefits as determined by affected communities.
- Models of community owned utilities that increase energy democracy are given priority over corporately-owned, for-profit wind development proposals
The challenge before us is clear – we must employ best practices to protect the ecological, social and cultural integrity of our lands as we rapidly decarbonize our electricity to combat the climate crisis. The conditions we have laid out above might seem to be more stringent than the standards to which most industries are held. To be clear, we have been trying to hold all industries and large-scale developments to these same standards for decades.
The transition to a green and just economy must not only shift what we build, but how we build it. New ways of generating electricity should not perpetuate old practices that have landed us in the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse we find ourselves in today. We need an economy that centers the well-being of our communities and natural ecosystems. Transforming our electricity systems is an opportunity to usher in a new paradigm where energy development is truly empowering for communities.
The bottom line is that we must phase out burning coal, fossil fuels and biomass for cleaner electricity generation, and do so in a way that limits the impact to our ecosystems and increases the resilience of our communities.