Nova Scotia

NDP bill calls for job creation through renewable energy plan

The bill would create a 15-person task force representing a variety of sectors and communities to develop a plan to transition the province to a greener economy.

Economic forecasts show investments in renewable energy will overshadow fossil fuels over next 20 years

Only a fraction of investment in energy will be spent on fossil fuels compared to renewables in the next 20 years, some economic forecasts say. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

People aren't afraid enough of climate change, says a Halifax environment and development professor.

"I don't think we appreciate what is actually coming," Kate Ervine, a Saint Mary's University professor with expertise in political ecology and carbon markets.

Ervine was at the legislature Tuesday to speak in support of an NDP bill that would create an economic plan focused on green jobs.

The bill would create a 15-person task force representing a variety of sectors and communities to develop a plan to transition the province to a greener economy.

It also calls for a reduction of the province's greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The province is currently 30 per cent below 2005 levels.

"The economic era of fossil fuels is rapidly yielding to a new economic era," said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

Financial forecasts for the next 20 years show that $7.8 trillion will be invested in renewable energy in the United States, while a fraction of that will go toward fossil fuels, he said.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill says Nova Scotia needs to have a plan to help the province's businesses operate in a green economy. (CBC)

"Nova Scotia's economic present, our prospects, our future, depend upon our success in making this great transition."

Part of the aim of the bill is recognizing people working in fossil fuel-related industries will eventually see fewer job prospects and will need support in terms of training and other options as they transition toward jobs more in step with a green economy.

"We can't simply tell people that change is coming and hope that they accept it," said Ervine.

Jobs in the technology and green sectors were the fastest growing in the country last year, she said.

"We're tapping into something that actually is happening, and it makes no sense not to do that."

Ervine pointed to Spain, where the government is working with unions representing coal industry workers to help them transition for a time when the coal mines shut down.

Saint Mary's University professor Kate Ervine speaks at the Nova Scotia Legislature on Tuesday about the need to transition businesses to a green economy. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil said the government continues to work toward further expansion of the green economy in Nova Scotia.

Efficiency Nova Scotia is expecting growth of five per cent in its GDP, he said, adding many of the agency's programs are geared toward supporting small businesses that help people reduce their carbon footprint.

"We believe not only can we do what's right for the environment, but we can also continue to grow the economy," said McNeil.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Goals and Sustainability Act, which governs a variety of reduction targets for the province, is due for its regularly scheduled review. Environment Minister Margaret Miller said that work is happening now and will be completed later this year.

Miller said she expects part of that work will look at the issue of green jobs.

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