EDITORIAL: A new champion for climate change

Published on March 18, 2017


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Climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions have found a new champion in the province. P.E.I. Auditor General Jane MacAdam has waded into the debate with aplomb.

The auditor general seems an unlikely source of climate critique. But she pushed aside her usual financial ledgers this week in her annual report. Climate change was in the spotlight and her report card was not good. In fact, it’s dismal.

Ms. MacAdam is intent on alerting Islanders that we have to get our act together. The time for action is now; we can’t wait until rising waters are lapping at the door of the legislature before politicians take the issue seriously.

Climate change highlighted pages 16 through 42 in the auditor general’s 171-page report. Her analysis suggests the province has a lot of work to do.

Canadian political leaders made ambitious climate pledges in Paris in late 2015. Ms. MacAdam notes that P.E.I. had a climate strategy in place for nine years. She expected a clear, measurable plan on what targets are and to show Islanders what progress is being made.

But government failed to address these issues. There were no provincial targets for reductions in carbon emissions; no provincial risk assessment for climate change adaptation; and no update to the province’s climate strategy since 2008.

The strategy called for government to prepare an annual climate change report beginning in 2009. Up to Wednesday, there have been no reports. Since 2010, the only public accounting has been departmental annual reports.

It was a grim assessment. But all is not lost.

Her report mentioned a new provincial mitigation strategy is under development, expected to be released this spring with an adaption strategy expected later this year.

Two days after Ms. MacAdam’s damning assessment, government responded. It is ready to act. There is good news; in fact, lots of it.

Greenhouse gas emissions in P.E.I. declined by eight per cent from 1990 to 2014. A national report suggests a decline in emissions related to the P.E.I. energy sector of over 15 per cent between 2010 and 2014.

Friday, the province released its long-awaited energy strategy, boldly predicting it will create jobs, stimulate the economy and put money into the pockets of Islanders. The 10-year plan aims to develop a stronger, more sustainable and resilient province. It focuses on energy efficiency, conservation and more renewable energy.

A second report on a climate change mitigation strategy was also released. The two reports will support the creation of a provincial climate change action plan. Together, they appear to address many areas of concern raised by the auditor general.

Based on the auditor general’s report and keen interest, government is well advised to implement these strategies.

Natural Resources Canada predicts P.E.I. will experience rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms and coastal erosion. Regardless of mitigation actions, we must adapt to the expected effects of climate change.

Islanders need to know the risks and financial costs involved.

We don’t want to go down with a sinking ship.