New Brunswick

Auditor general praised for questioning province's climate change response

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is applauding the New Brunswick auditor-general's call for putting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions into legislation.

Conservation Council says Kim MacPherson is right to be concerned about unlegislated targets

New Brunswick Auditor General Kim MacPherson presented the first volume of her 2017 annual report on Tuesday. (CBC)

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is applauding the New Brunswick auditor-general's call for putting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions into legislation.

"When you put it in a piece of legislation, it becomes very serious," Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said Wednesday. "It becomes the law.

Auditor General Kim MacPherson recommended Tuesday that the province follow four other provinces, including Nova Scotia, and legislate targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

"We can turn worldwide to see what other jurisdictions have done, what mistakes to avoid, how to communicate better, how to get people all pulling on the same piece of string that empowers communities," Corbett said.

Corbett said MacPherson's team presented a "very good audit" of the province's response to climate change and asked the right questions to find out whether promises are being carried out in a way that shows results.

"Is it going to be enough? When and how will the government get it done and what's the impact of getting it done [and] not getting it done?" Corbett asked. 

In her report, MacPherson also wanted to see the province to identify priorities and an implementation plan for the 118 actions identified in the Climate Change Action Plan, Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Economy.

In an interview with Information Morning Fredericton, she said there's still significant work to be done.

"There is no detail behind each action item, there are no timelines in terms of when they intend to achieve each action," MacPherson said. "There's funding required for a number of them, that's not defined, who's responsible to implement each of these actions … it's all the detail that goes behind it [plan] that has yet to be done."

Lessons to be learned

MacPherson said New Brunswick has had three climate change action plans since 2007, and Premier Brian Gallant released his government's plan in December. 

Although emissions in New Brunswick are on track to meet 2020 reduction targets, her reort said the plan will not be enough to meet 2030 and 2050 targets.

"Dealing with climate change over time, carbon pollution and all the sources of carbon pollution in our environment is not the easiest in the world, but it's also not rocket science," said Corbett. "It's somewhere in between. … I recognize it's one of those gnarly issues that's across all of the [provincial] departments."  ​

But MacPherson said the government has acknowledged these shortcomings and will take action by the end of the year to put the details behind the plan.

NB Power under a microscope 

Corbett said the auditor general was also correct in singling out NB Power, one of the province's largest emissions producers, which has renewable energy targets but no specific greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets.

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

"It is accountable for its pollution to the people of New Brunswick and secondly it's a big source," she said. "I thought putting NB Power in its climate change perspective under a microscope was a very good service."