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With much at stake, environmental groups urge public to weigh in on new climate consultation

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WATCH: Nova Scotia has launched a new public consultation process to help inform regulations for its Sustainable Development Goals Act, and an upcoming Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth. – May 28, 2021

Environmental groups and the Nova Scotia government are urging the public to weigh in on a new climate consultation process launched this week.

The province is seeking input on possible regulations for its Sustainable Development Goals Act (SDGA) and an upcoming ‘Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth.’

The regulations will put “meat on the bone” of the 2019 SDGA, according to Environment Minister Keith Irving, and the climate change plan will chart a path for transitioning to a green economy. There is no timeline in place for the completion or implementation of regulations, he added.

“I want to see and hear from Nova Scotians and make sure we’ve done a good job on consultation,” he explained.

“The federal government is putting significant dollars into initiatives and programs, and we’ve got to make sure we dovetail our work to the federal work to make the best use of our resources and ideas.”

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Through the 2019 SDGA, Nova Scotia committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Premier Iain Rankin has also said he aims to make Nova Scotia the first net-zero province in Canada.

Noreen Mabiza, energy coordinator for sustainable communities at the Ecology Action Centre, said she wants to see the province adopt strong measures that will force it to follow its own environmental rules.

“What we think is important is accountability mechanisms because without those accountability mechanisms, the SDGA is just going to be full of empty promises.”

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Sierra Club Atlantic said it will also participate in the consultation process and encourage the government to adopt climate goals that take effect much sooner than 2050 — in two and five years’ time, for example.

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“It’s clear if we don’t start setting more short-term goals that we’ll never reach any of these longer-term goals,” said communications coordinator Tynette Deveaux.

“We need to be taking some pretty dramatic action immediately throughout Canada to set Canada on-course for lowering emissions, and unfortunately, there are a lot of promises and a lot of talk, but very little follow-through and action.”

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Through the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries around the world have committed to limiting global warming to below 2 C — preferably, 1.5 C. Meteorologists, however, have predicted there’s a 40 per cent chance the world will get so hot in the next five years, it will temporarily blaze past those targets.

“They need to hear from all of us,” said Mabiza. “You don’t need to be an expert on sustainability, you’re already an expert on your reality and lived experiences.”

Nova Scotia’s consultation process will last until July 27. Nova Scotians can weigh in by Zoom, email, mail and phone, and the province is distributing tools and resources so communities can facilitate their own discussions.

It has awarded a $100,000-contract to a third party, the Clean Foundation, to help deliver on the logistics.

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After the province clawed back key enforcement measures of the Biodiversity Act in April, however, Sierra Club Atlantic has concerns about the sincerity of the consultation process.

Those changes were made after some Nova Scotians — forestry industry advocates in particular — weighed in on legislation, said Deveaux.

“I think we have legitimate reasons to be concerned that government consultation is paying lip service to everyday Nova Scotians and to the environment,” she explained.

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No public feedback on the original 2019 SDGA was implemented, she added, and the legislation was sparse on details of how it would achieve its emissions targets.

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Irving said this consultation process is putting a “concerted effort” to reach out to Nova Scotians that are “not always consulted on these things,” including African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq and LGBTQ2 communities.

He assured the public will “have their voices heard” in this consultation process, and their input will “influence” Nova Scotia’s path both for the SDGA and Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth.

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