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Nova Scotia legislature committee told new climate targets don’t go far enough

File / Global News

Nova Scotia lawmakers were implored to strengthen environmental targets on Monday as activists and others voiced concerns that the province’s Liberal government isn’t moving fast enough on climate change.

The government’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals Act would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and move the province to a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050.

However, a succession of presenters at the legislature’s law amendments committee said that science has established the timeline set out in Bill 213 is simply not urgent enough.

“I’m here today because you are deciding my future,” said Julia Sampson, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student who helped organize last month’s climate strike march in Halifax.

“Right now your plan isn’t good enough,” Sampson said. “Net-zero by 2050 is too late. That’s 20 years past irreversible climate catastrophe.”

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Many of the speakers told the committee that Nova Scotia and the country as a whole should be aiming for net-zero emissions by 2030.

The Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre says that while Nova Scotia’s 2030 emissions target is currently the most ambitious in the country, it’s still insufficient.

The environmental group believes the target should be amended to 58 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, meaning the province would emit no more than 9.8 megatonnes per year by that date.

Meghan McMorris, the centre’s community energy co-ordinator, said the speed with which the province moves towards a target of net-zero emissions will determine the extent of climate change impacts.

“This is the minimum necessary amount required to be compliant with the 1.5 degree global warming target,” McMorris said.

The new act would also create a fund to help communities fight climate change while growing the economy.

It also calls for a new climate change strategy to be in place by the end of next year, following extensive public consultation. A 15-member minister’s roundtable would also be created, composed of environmental advocates and industry representatives.

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Robin Tress of the Council of Canadians warned against including corporate interests as part of the consultation process.

“It is essential that corporate voices are excluded,” said Tress. “Corporate interests are what got us into this mess and they cannot be allowed to muddy the waters.”

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Darlene Gilbert, a Mi’kmaq activist who has campaigned to stop a plan by Alton Gas to use water from the Shubenacadie River to create large underground storage caverns, admonished the committee for the government’s lack of proper consultation with Indigenous people when it comes to such projects.

“What makes you think that I’m going to believe this bill is going to be truthful?” Gilbert asked. “How truthful can you be about saving mother earth?”

The new legislation would replace the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which set previous goals.

One that has been met is having 25 per cent of the province’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2015. The provincial government says that number is on track to exceed 40 per cent by 2020.

The bill was later sent back to the legislature without any amendments.

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The NDP members of the committee moved a motion calling for the emissions target to be amended to 58 per cent below 2005 levels instead of 53 per cent, but that was voted down by the Liberal majority on the committee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2019.