Nova Scotia

Delayed public consultation on climate change regulations soon to begin

The associate deputy minister said the delay is partially related to ensuring members of the public have fair and equitable access to participate. Some people have had mostly normal lives in the last year during the pandemic, but that’s not the case for everyone.

Process was put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic

Storm surges, such as this one in Liverpool, N.S., in 2018, are expected to increase in years to come due to climate change. (Ken Veinot/Canadian Press)

Five months after regulations for Nova Scotia's updated climate change strategy were supposed to be in place, public consultation on their development is about to begin.

Jason Hollett, associate deputy minister of the Environment and Climate Change Department, told the legislature's natural resources committee on Tuesday that the work is imminent.

In an interview, Hollett said the delay is partially related to ensuring members of the public have fair and equitable access to participate. Some people have had mostly normal lives during the pandemic, but that's not the case for everyone, he said.

"Everybody was dealing with the impacts of public health protocols in different ways. It took us a while to chart a pathway to be able to deal with that and put together a plan that could be as comprehensive and equitable as possible."

Legislation left almost all details to regulations

When the government passed the Sustainable Development Goals Act in October 2019, the legislation had almost no details other than new greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2030 and a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Information about how those goals would be achieved was left to regulations that were supposed to be drafted and implemented by the end of 2020. In April 2020, consultation on those regulations and a strategic plan on climate change was officially put on hold.

But Hollett said that doesn't mean all work ground to a halt during the pandemic.

Officials have conducted analysis work, and coordinated with other government departments on the file. Hollett said his department has also had an open-door policy throughout this period.

"Anyone that's contacted us or reached out to us that's wanted to talk about it, we've made ourselves available," he said. "It's been about 25-30 different organizations."

'Not sitting back on our laurels'

Hollett also pointed to the fact the province's cap-and-trade program is in place, as are greenhouse gas emissions caps on electricity. In recent months, Premier Iain Rankin has said the province intends to stop using coal to generate electricity by 2030 — 10 years sooner than planned. The province has also set a target to see 80 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity use come from renewable sources by 2030, and is offering incentives for people to buy electric vehicles and increase energy efficiency at home.

"We're not sitting back on our laurels until the plan is done," said Hollett.

"There's a lot that's been done over the past 12 months to keep us moving toward our objectives on climate change."

Even with the delays, Hollett said he thinks it is realistic to get the work completed by the end of the year.

"Nobody feels the pressure for time more than our group and the folks that are working on it, but I'm confident that if we can get out and do public consultation relatively shortly that we'll still be able to put together a pretty comprehensive and robust plan."