Nova Scotia·Q&A

How Halifax plans to use property tax hike to tackle climate change

Shannon Miedema, Halifax's director of environment and climate change, explains what the municipality plans to do with the new tax revenue earmarked for dealing with climate change.

Municipal official says $18M a year to be placed in a reserve for climate action

The road to Lawrencetown Beach on the eastern shore of the Halifax Regional Municipality was closed during a powerful January 2018 storm. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

In order to tackle the impacts of climate change and transition to net-zero emissions, Halifax will be allocating almost two-thirds of a planned property 4.6 per cent property tax hike toward a climate plan.

Shannon Miedema, the municipality's director of environment and climate change, spoke with CBC Information Morning Halifax host Portia Clark about how it plans to use the new revenue. 

According to Miedema, $18 million a year will be put into a reserve for climate action and $9.6 million will be spent in the capital plan.

She will be moderating a session on how communities can deal with consequences of climate change and achieve their climate goals at an Emera-sponsored smart energy conference in Halifax on Tuesday.

Like all the other panellists at the two-day event, Miedema said she will be addressing the five Ws: Who's leading the way? What are the outcomes? When do we start? Where do we find solutions. Why are we waiting?

Shannon Miedema is Halifax's director of environment and climate change. (CBC)

This is a condensed version of Miedema's CBC conversation that has been edited for clarity and length.

You can listen to their full interview here:

Property owners in HRM will see a tax hike to pay for the municipality's climate plan. But how will that money be spent? We ask HRM's director of environment and climate change Shannon Miedema. Plus, find out about her participation in Emera's Smart Energy Event this week.

There seem to be three main initiatives on your radar for each year. Let's start with electric vehicles. What's the plan there? 

We had our electric vehicle strategy approved by council late last year ... and that means putting in public charging infrastructure all over HRM so that we have a connected network. That [way] everyone feels comfortable with the idea of purchasing an electric vehicle that they'll always be able to charge when they need to. And also converting our corporate fleet, we have over 300 vehicles that we manage, over to electric.

Does that include our public transportation? 

That was part of the three per cent tax — to electrify transit buses as well. They are preparing for their first 30 buses and then they get another 30 the following year. 

It's for 2023. They're about to award the tender and they're going through the design process now.

What is another of the three main areas that this money will go toward? 

The other one is on HRM's municipal buildings.

We own about 300 buildings. One of our targets in the plan is to reduce energy by at least half on average on all of our buildings and put renewables on where it makes sense to, solar typically. And also to look at resilience to climate impacts.

That's kind of a long-term initiative and it has a good payback, but there's an upfront investment that's required. 

The third prong is adaptation. What does that mean in a Halifax context?

We talk a lot about preparing for the impacts that we are seeing now and that are predicted to worsen over time.

One of the things that we really need to start looking at is our critical infrastructure and making sure that it's resilient to impacts. This means putting some money aside to do some large capital investment.

If you think about things like eroding or flooding coastal shore roads, for example.

It's also things like food security, telecommunications, shelters. There's a pretty broad definition of critical infrastructure by the federal government.

That's an area of work that we really want to get going on. 

And can you tap into some federal dollars for that, too?

There is a lot of federal money and we have applied for a really interesting new fund. It's a natural infrastructure fund. It's looking at a piece of infrastructure and thinking about green solutions for it. Looking at things like plantings and oyster beds off the shore to kind of minimize wave action and things like that.

There was a vote on this, whether to do this tax increase and devote it to climate change. Council vote was 13 to 3, I believe. Are there people who don't support this tax hike? What do you say to them?

The property tax hike was required regardless of funding climate. But really we don't have an option on whether or not we're going to spend on climate.

It's whether we control how we're going to spend it and ideally spend less of it now. Or if we wait and have to spend a pile of money dealing with the implications of not acting down the road.

It's trying to be preventative, it's trying to be urgent because our window of time is really narrowing.

If we don't drive our emissions down collectively by 2030, we're going to have much worse impacts. 

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With files from Information Morning Halifax

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