P.E.I. needs 'bold' action to meet emissions target, committee hears
Reducing emissions will require ‘transformative change’ in transportation sector
The director of P.E.I.'s climate change secretariat told members of a special legislative committee Thursday that even if the province realizes all the reductions laid out in its current climate-change action plan, it will fall well short of the current target.
P.E.I. was one-quarter of the way toward its 2030 emissions reduction target as of 2017, the most recent date for which emissions figures are currently available.
"If we don't make major, transformative changes in the transport sector we're not going to meet that target," said Todd Dupuis, executive director of P.E.I.'s climate change secretariat.
"We have to be bold."
Dupuis was speaking before the special committee on climate change, struck during the last sitting of the legislature and charged with coming up with costed recommendations to allow the province to meet a new, more ambitious target to reduce emissions.
The all-party committee will seek input from the public over the winter as it looks to come up with a plan to deliver to the legislature. It would then be up to the government of Dennis King to decide whether to adopt those recommendations.
Dupuis said if the province realizes all reductions in its current climate action plan, which runs until 2023, that would reduce emissions by 180 kilotonnes. To meet the target set by the legislature over the summer, the province would have to reduce emissions by another 320 kilotonnes.
To illustrate the scope of the task at hand, Dupuis offered the following examples, any one of which he said would produce the required reduction:
- Converting 70,000 passenger vehicles to electricity by 2030 (there were 82,000 passenger vehicles in total on P.E.I. in 2018).
- Planting 24 million trees next year (provincial nurseries will produce 900,000).
- Heating 36,000 of P.E.I.'s 60,000 homes without producing emissions.
"It's not impossible. I don't want to scare anybody, just give you an idea of what we face," Dupuis told committee members.
P.E.I. emitted 1.8 megatonnes — or 1,800 kilotonnes — of greenhouse gases in 2017.
In the spring sitting of the legislature, the Green Party introduced and passed a bill to lower P.E.I.'s 2030 emissions target from 1.4 megatonnes to 1.2 megatonnes.
The party said that would bring P.E.I.'s target in line with global efforts to limit warming since pre-industrial times to less than 1.5 C.
Transportation is responsible for nearly half of P.E.I.'s emissions, and Dupuis said those emissions have been increasing as motorists choose SUVs over smaller passenger vehicles at a ratio he said has now reached two-to-one.
"We've got to think out of the box a bit," he said when asked what the province could do to reduce emissions from transportation.
"There will be EVs on the road by 2030 but we've got to think about rural transit, we've got to think about working from home."
Government considering incentives
Dupuis said the province is almost ready with a draft of its sustainable transportation action plan, which he said will include 27 action items in areas including rural transit and active transportation.
Environment Minister Brad Trivers, meanwhile, said his department is considering allocating funds from the province's carbon tax to provide incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.
On Thursday the province announced it would begin measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations through The Climate Registry, a non-profit group that helps provincial and state-level governments monitor emissions.
In ministerial mandate letters sent out earlier this month, King told his cabinet ministers to consider "the climate impact while delivering on your priorities."
To that end, Dupuis pointed out in his presentation how government departments will each now have climate change co-ordinators, and how documents outlining government decision-making processes will be altered to ensure "there is a climate change lens attached to most or all decisions when it comes to government."