[sust-mar] Nova Scotia and the federal government’s plan to combat climate change

Larry Hughes lhughes2 at dal.ca
Tue Jun 28 05:22:58 EDT 2016

Nova Scotia and the federal government’s plan to combat climate change
Larry Hughes
28 June 2016

This summer the federal government will be holding a series of public 
consultations across the country on combating climate change.  The 
consultations are, in part, a result of Prime Minister Trudeau committing 
Canada to meeting Article 2(a) of the COP-21 Paris Agreement which aims to 
“strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change” by 
“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C 
above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature 
increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.

If the Paris Agreement is ratified and comes into force (as the Paris 
Accord), Canadians will be expected to meet a nationally determined 
emissions reduction target by 2030 in preparation  for additional 
reductions intended to increase the likelihood of keeping global 
temperatures below 2°C.

The 2030 target is a “pledge” to reduce Canada’s 2005 carbon emissions by 
30% by 2030.  This commitment was made by the previous Conservative 
government to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate 
Change) in early 2015.  Canada’s reduction commitment, along with the 
national commitments of the other signatories of the Paris Agreement, is 
seen as the first step in limiting global temperature rise this century to 
less than 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels.

An examination of recently-released national and provincial emissions data 
from Environment Canada shows that in 2014, Nova Scotia had already 
reduced its emissions by 30% from 2005 levels, the only province to have 
done so.  Almost 90% of these reductions were the result of legislation 
requiring Nova Scotia Power to change its energy mix, a decline in 
industrial electricity demand, a decline in road and maritime 
transportation energy demand, and the closure of the Dartmouth refinery.

While impressive in terms emissions reduction, these reductions have come 
at price.  For example, between 2005 and 2014, the residential cost of a 
kilowatt-hour of electricity in Nova Scotia rose by 62%, while between 
2011 and 2014, the province’s annual GDP growth remained constant at 7.5%, 
relative to 2005.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the organization 
responsible for assessing the scientific, technical, and socio-economic 
information relating to anthropogenic climate change, has estimated that 
if there is to be any likelihood of achieving the 2°C limit, emissions 
will need to decline by between 41% and 72% of 2010 levels by 2050.  In 
other words, further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed 
after 2030.

In 2014, slightly over three-quarters of Nova Scotia’s emissions came from 
three sources: electricity generation (43.6%), road transportation 
(20.5%), and space and water heating for residential, commercial, and 
institutional buildings (12.4%).  According to the 2013 Dalton Report 
(based on data from the Nova Scotia Departments of Energy and 
Environment), by 2050, Nova Scotia Power’s emissions will have declined 
sufficiently for the province to meet the IPCC’s 41% target.

Meeting the 72% target will require significant reductions in energy 
consumption and considerable changes to both energy-consuming technology 
and the energy consumed by the technology in almost all sectors of the 
economy.  For example, in addition to Nova Scotia Power reducing its 
emissions, by reducing emissions from road transportation and space and 
water heating to zero, the province’s emissions would decline almost 72%. 
This could be achieved by operating vehicles and heating systems with 

Nova Scotia’s experience with emissions reduction, while successful in 
terms of lowering the province’s carbon-intensity, is proving to be an 
expensive undertaking, in terms of both rising energy costs and its impact 
on the provincial economy.  These costs will continue to mount, as new 
low-, or no-, emission infrastructure will be needed to replace existing 
high-emission infrastructure.

Fortunately, since Nova Scotia has already met the 30% target and appears 
to be on its way to meeting all or a significant portion of the proposed 
2050 targets, the provincial government has the time to develop a 
long-term, low socio-economic impact energy strategy.

A low-cost energy strategy could not come at a more opportune time. 
Although most of the political focus on the Paris Agreement has been 
emissions reduction, the agreement also emphasizes the need for adaptation 
in a world of rising temperatures.  Nova Scotia, given its geography, will 
need to cover the costs of adapting to, amongst other things, sea-level 
rise and changes to existing weather patterns.

Publish in AllNovaScotia.com 28 June 2016.

Larry Hughes, PhD
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 2X4, Canada

v: 902.494.3950
f: 902.422.7535
e: larry.hughes at dal.ca
w: http://lh.ece.dal.ca

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