The province of Nova Scotia is taking steps to introduce new legislation that will help the government establish new climate and environmental goals, which it says will not only ensure a healthy environment, but help build long-term economic prosperity for Nova Scotians.
It’s been called the ‘Sustainable Prosperity Act’ and it’s a new piece of legislation that will replace the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA), which was passed in 2007 and needs updating as many of its goals have been achieved.
Minister of Environment Gordon Wilson says the legislation is reviewed every five years, and they’ll now look to build a new way forward as many of the previous environmental targets were set with a 2020 deadline.
“This is a chance to regroup and reengage Nova Scotians and redevelop what our new priorities really are,” said Wilson.
A healthy environment and economy can coexist, says Wilson, arguing that new targets will help move the province forward as an environmental and sustainable leader.
In 2017, an environmental roundtable outlined a list of future environmental priorities. Wilson said the board established 10 key recommendations that will help create the new Sustainable Prosperity Act, which has been broken down into six areas of focus.
“Those are cleaner energy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and we are also looking at the circular economy, which is becoming more and more prevalent as an opportunity in our province now,” said Wilson.
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Other areas of focus, he said, include “leadership and sustainable prosperity, biodiversity and natural asset stewardship and lastly, but certainly not least, would be the inclusive economy.”
Mark Butler is the policy director with the Ecology Action Centre and sat on the environmental roundtable that helped identify the environmental priorities. He and others within the EAC, he said, have long been waiting for the province to update its strategic vision for the economy and environment.
“Setting goals like this can drive environmental change and economic opportunity,” said Butler.
An online community consultation process has been limited to a 30-day questionnaire that Butler says might be a little shortsighted but will still allow the public to weigh in with their concerns and insights.
“Right now it’s just online consultation and we think that’s a bit of a missed opportunity,” said Butler.
“What could be more interesting, more rewarding and result in a better act is if you and I and 10 other people were in a room, all talking about how we could make this act drive economic activity and environmental protection here in Nova Scotia.”
Regardless of the consultation period, all sides can agree that a cohesive plan is vital to healthy and prosperous communities and a plan also provides government accountability.
“It’s important because if we don’t hear from people and don’t set goals, then the work that government does isn’t going to reflect the people’s needs,” said Meghan McMorris, the community energy coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre.