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Atlantic Canada, News

Climate change action items lack implementation plans: N.B. auditor general

Posted on June 20, 2017

Auditor General Kim MacPherson has tabled her report assessing New Brunswick’s progress towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to climate change. This report is part of ongoing work on climate change by all auditor’ general across Canada.

Emissions in New Brunswick have declined from their peak in 2005 and reduction targets set for 2020 in the provincial climate change action plan are on track to be met. However, MacPherson found emissions are not projected to decline much further under the status quo, and meeting 2030 and 2050 targets will require significant action from provincial and federal initiatives.

“Overall, we found many action items do not have timelines or implementation plans,” said MacPherson. “If targets were legislated, it would give government authority to enforce these actions.”

Nova Scotia and three other provinces have demonstrated commitment to reducing emissions by legislating GHG reduction targets. MacPherson recommended New Brunswick GHG emission targets also be legislated.

MacPherson’s report shows New Brunswick emissions represent only a small portion of Canada’s overall output, but the province ranks as the seventh highest GHG emitter per capita.

Electricity generation, industry, and transportation are the three dominant contributors to New Brunswick’s GHG emissions.

The report also shows that while NB Power has renewable energy targets, it does not have specific GHG reduction targets to guide reduction efforts in the future.

In addition, a recently announced federal initiative to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 also poses potential operational risks to NB Power, as its Belledune Generating Station produces 13 per cent of NB Power’s total capacity.

“As one of the province’s largest emissions producers, NB Power should have specific reduction targets set,” said MacPherson. “In addition, impacts and solutions relating to a potential phase-out of the Belledune coal-fired plant should be developed and analyzed.”

MacPherson found vulnerability assessments have been completed in 46 communities in New Brunswick. However, no provincial comprehensive risk assessment or vulnerability assessment specific to NB Power has been performed.

“Adapting to climate change may be one of the greatest challenges for communities, governments and corporations in the coming decades,” said MacPherson. “Without a comprehensive risk assessment for the province, it will be difficult to consistently identify risks and priorities.”

MacPherson made five recommendations to the Department of Environment and Local Government which include:

  • proposing to cabinet that GHG emission targets be legislated;
  • setting specific GHG emission reduction targets for NB Power to ensure the provincial targets are achievable; and
  • finalizing an implementation plan that describes how and when the actions identified in New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan will be implemented.

MacPherson also made three recommendations to NB Power, which include performing a corporate climate change vulnerability assessment and one recommendation specific to the Belledune Generating Station.

The chapter on climate change can be found in Volume I of the 2017 Auditor General’s Report, which also contains a chapter on a Department of Social Development advisory services contract. The report and one-page summaries for the chapters are available online.

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