Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia puts climate change consultation on hold because of COVID-19

A new climate change strategy for Nova Scotia hinges upon public consultation, which has now been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A plan for achieving net-zero carbon by 2050 hinges on public engagement

Nova Scotia Power's Tufts Cove generating station along Halifax harbour. (Robert Short/CBC)

A new climate change strategy for Nova Scotia hinges upon public consultation, which has now been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October, the provincial government passed the Sustainable Development Goals Act, which requires the province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The legislation was scant in detail, which was one of the major points of criticism by opposition parties and environmental advocates. The government promised to set more climate change goals and create a strategic plan after provincewide public consultation.

The Department of Environment had planned to launch in-person and online consultations in March.

"Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, we put consultation on hold for now," department spokesperson Rachel Boomer told CBC News in an emailed statement.

"We're looking forward to hearing from Nova Scotians, and we're working to determine how and when we can move forward."

Meghan McMorris, community energy co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, said the government made the right decision in delaying the process.

McMorris advocated for prompt and thorough community engagement when the Sustainable Development Goals Act was introduced at Province House, but she said no one has "the bandwidth" for it during the pandemic.

"People's concerns aren't about, and rightly so, are not about climate change, they're about putting food on the table and paying rent and making that mortgage payment," she said.

McMorris said some of the issues at the forefront of public conversation during the pandemic could carry forward into talks about the province's new environmental bill. 

"People are seeing the vulnerabilities that exist in our communities and in our societies," she said.

"COVID-19 does not discriminate, it impacts everyone, but it does not impact everyone equally. It amplifies existing vulnerabilities, and these are the same vulnerabilities that the climate crisis also does and will amplify."

McMorris said the economic and societal consequences of the coronavirus pandemic could show people "what they need to increase their resilience ... in the face of any crisis."

December deadline

The environmental legislation requires a strategic plan for climate change to be in place by Dec. 31, 2020.

McMorris said she hoped the potentially truncated timeline wouldn't compromise the process.

"I would just hope that the government continues to keep a good engagement process at the heart of the development of the Sustainable Development Goals Act, and is willing to reconsider things as we navigate these unprecedented times."

About the Author

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca