New Brunswick

Legislate reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions in N.B., says auditor general

New Brunswick's auditor general is calling on the provincial government to follow the lead of four other provinces, including neighbouring Nova Scotia, and legislate targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Kim MacPherson's annual report finds climate change action items lack timelines, implementation plans

Greenhouse gas emissions in New Brunswick are not projected to decline much more under the status quo, Auditor General Kim MacPherson found. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick's auditor general is calling on the provincial government to follow the lead of four other provinces, including neighbouring Nova Scotia, and legislate targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Kim MacPherson also wants to see a comprehensive risk assessment for the province to identify priorities and an implementation plan for the 118 actions identified in the province's Climate Change Action Plan, Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Economy.

"Adapting to climate change may be one of the greatest challenges for communities, governments and corporations in the coming decades," MacPherson said on Tuesday, when she tabled the first volume of her annual report in Fredericton.

Although emissions in New Brunswick have declined from their peak in 2001 and are on track to meet the 2020 reduction targets laid out in the province's 2016 action plan, the status quo will not be enough to meet 2030 and 2050 targets, according to her report.

Premier Brian Gallant released the Climate Change Action Plan in December.

"Significant actions are required," MacPherson's report says.

"Overall, we found many action items do not have timelines or implementation plans," or allocated funding, said MacPherson.

Reduction targets that are legislated show a government's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, her 43-page chapter on climate change says.

"If targets were legislated, it would give government authority to enforce these actions."

Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all legislated their reduction targets, the report points out.

Will 'seriously consider' report

Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle told reporters the government "will seriously consider" MacPherson's recommendations.

"Right now, we are working on doing the carbon pricing and things like that, and in the next two years, we are seriously considering that," he said.

Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle says the government is focused on carbon pricing. (CBC)
Asked whether he is confident the province will meet the 2030 reduction targets, Rousselle replied, "You can be sure that we'll do everything to make sure that we do."

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick urged prompt action.

Executive director Lois Corbett suggested the Brian Gallant government introduce legislation in time for the next sitting of the legislature this fall.

"And let's hope all parties vote for its speedy adoption," she said in a statement.

The target of 2030, we're not going to get anywhere close unless we up our game.- David Coon, Green Party leader

"If we want to catch this boat, the time for the government and NB Power to move is now. Not in 2018. Not 10 years from now."

Green Party Leader David Coon also wants to see legislated reduction targets and details about when and how the government will achieve the goals of the Climate Change Action Plan. 

"The target of 2030, we're not going to get anywhere close unless we up our game in helping people save energy and helping people and businesses switch to renewable energy," Coon said. "Those two are the key elements.

"That's how we solve climate change and we have to do it in a way that's affordable for all."

NB Power-specific targets needed

NB Power, one of the province's largest emissions producers, has renewable energy targets but no specific greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets, MacPherson found.

And the utility faces potential operational risks, given the recently announced federal initiative to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, she said, noting Belledune Generating Station currently produces 13 per cent of NB Power's total capacity.

Belledune Generating Station produces 13 per cent of NB Power’s total capacity, but the federal government plans to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. (Environment and Climate Change Canada)
The Department of Environment should set specific greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets for NB Power to ensure provincial targets are achievable, MacPherson's report recommends.

"In addition, impacts and solutions relating to a potential phase-out of the Belledune coal-fired plant should be developed and analyzed," she said, noting New Brunswick is the only province with a coal plant that doesn't have a phase-out plan.

New Brunswick ranks as the seventh highest greenhouse gas emitter per capita, at 17.5 tonnes per person, and eighth highest in total emissions, according to MacPherson's report.

The province's greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 14.1 mega tonnes.

The three biggest contributors to the emissions in New Brunswick are electricity generation, industry and transportation, said MacPherson.

The 2020 emissions target is 14.8 mega tonnes.

Vulnerability assessments have been completed in 46 communities, she found.

With files from Jacques Poitras

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