Open Letter on Need for Carbon Pricing in Nova Scotia

In advance of next week’s release of Nova Scotia’s 2016/17 Budget, diverse groups have come together to urge provincial government to develop a carbon pricing system for Nova Scotia based on 5 key principles. The groups represent labour, anti-poverty, environmental, and social justice communities across the province. Their open letter to Premier McNeil and Finance Minister Delorey is below.

Anti-Poverty, Fair Economy, Labour and Environmental Advocates Agree on Five Key Principles for a made-in-Nova Scotia Carbon Pricing System

Premier McNeil and Finance Minister Delorey,

The dramatic social and economic costs of a changing climate are well-documented, requiring an immediate and multi-pronged strategy on the part of governments to meet the challenges faced today, which will continue to intensify for future generations. Canada’s commitment to the Paris target of limiting average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius means we need to increase the ambition of our provincial climate plan.

Nova Scotia’s investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, combined with the province’s legislated caps on greenhouse gas emissions, have set our electricity sector on the right course. 

Work remains in addressing carbon pollution from other sources, like transportation. At the same time, it is clear that energy affordability is a top concern for Nova Scotians especially for those living on low and moderate incomes.

Done right, a made-in-Nova Scotia approach to carbon pricing can help us target the sources of pollution our current laws are missing, while also giving us new financial resources we can use to help vulnerable people and invest in our communities.

Carbon pricing is the new norm in Canada with five provinces, representing almost 90% of the country’s population, committed to a carbon tax or cap and trade system. The federal government is clear about its intentions to work with provinces as they design carbon pricing policies. Clearly some form of carbon pricing is coming to Nova Scotia.
Now is the moment to take advantage of political momentum and relatively low oil prices to design a carbon pricing system tailored to Nova Scotia’s particular circumstances and needs. Failure to do so may result in hasty adoption later, amid increasing pressure from the Federal government and nearby jurisdictions with their own systems. Nova Scotia can choose to lead the way in our region, or we will be forced to follow.

We, the undersigned, urge Nova Scotia government to use carbon pricing as a tool to take us where we need to go as a province.

Nova Scotia needs to begin a conversation about how carbon pricing can work for us. We understand that there are a variety of approaches our province might take to putting a price on carbon pollution. 

We offer the following five principles as key elements of any approach we ultimately develop for a Nova Scotia carbon price:

Effective: the price should start at a level in line with other Canadian systems and increase at regular, predictable intervals to a level that is high enough to serve as a disincentive to environmentally harmful activities and an incentive for shifts to cleaner technologies. Keeping in line with other jurisdictions does mean that the price alone will not be high enough to reduce emissions to the level necessary and, therefore, the revenue from the price must be used to support a just and equitable transition to a low carbon economy. 

Fair: government must compensate low- to middle-income households so that modest income households can afford higher prices and  low income households are more energy secure than they are at present.  Therefore, for low income households this compensation must cover more than the extra costs associated with a carbon price and compensation must increase as the price increases. Carbon pricing should also not adversely affect the public sector so that services are not cut or restricted to accommodate higher costs because that will disproportionately affect low income households. 

In addition, part of the revenue generated from a carbon price should be used to support Nova Scotia’s low-carbon transition, with a portion allocated to projects and initiatives that support the social and economic development of low-income communities and households, in conjunction with low-carbon initiatives. 

Transparent: design and implement a price that is easy to understand by Nova Scotians including the impact on the environment, the economy, and their own household. The government should enshrine these principles in law and legislate requirements about exactly how revenue will be used.

Efficient: as much as possible, make use of existing regulatory infrastructure to administer a carbon pricing system to ensure that the system is low cost to implement and operate.

Economically Sustainable: ensure that the price fosters a low-carbon economic transition, which does not have an adverse impact on workers or the economy (both rural and urban), by coupling the introduction of a carbon price with public investment to generate green job opportunities. 

Ultimately, a carbon price is only one essential piece in a suite of policies within a broader climate change prevention and mitigation framework. If implemented using these five principles, carbon pricing, alongside complementary regulations and standards, promises a wealth of co-benefits for Nova Scotians: reduced illness and morbidity; lower provincial healthcare costs; reduced energy poverty; decreased overall household spending as energy efficiency and access to renewables improves; and the growth of green-sector jobs to support a low-carbon transition, allowing more Nova Scotians to stay here. 

The Nova Scotia government should immediately create a multi-sectoral working group on this issue, including environmental, anti-poverty and fair economy groups.  


Katherine Reed and Kate Ervine, Affordable Energy Coalition
David M. Morgan, Antigonish Community Energy Cooperative
Christine Saulnier, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia
Andy Blair, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice – Atlantic Canada
Joanne Light, Citizens Climate Lobby – Nova Scotia
Gina Patterson, Clean Foundation
Stella Lord, Community Society to End Poverty in Nova Scotia
Catherine Abreu, Ecology Action Centre
Monika Dutt, Health Providers Against Poverty
Kathleen Kevany, Living Earth Council
Brian Gifford, Nova Scotians for Tax Fairness
Danny Cavanagh, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Sue Adams, Responsible Energy Action
Frank Gallant, Sustainable Antigonish
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Food Security and Climate Change

Hoop HouseThe way food is produced, processed and distributed is a major contributor to climate change. Food production can have positive and negative impacts on the environment depending on how it is produced and distributed. For example, strong local food production with easy access for people to purchase can greatly reduce the amount food needs to travel to get to our plate. Small scale and organic agriculture has fewer environmental impacts.

On the negative side, major grocery chains rely on central distribution systems which see locally produced foods shipped to a central location to be processed and packaged and then shipped back to our local stores. A lack of local infrastructure (abattoirs) means food has to travel farther to be processed. We also import the majority of our foods consumed and export a great deal of what we produce locally. The Nova Scotia report, Making Food Matter states that in 2008 only 13% of our food dollars spent made it back to local farms.

In addition, the loss of small local grocery stores through consolidated control in the grocery industry has also concentrated the locations of stores, leading to reliance on car travel to access food.

Climate change can lead to increased food prices due to weather extremes damaging crops: droughts, floods, unusual cold, hot or dry. When we have food shortages the price of food goes up and it is felt on a local level. People living in poverty and food insecurity are most vulnerable to these negative impacts.

There are many things we can do individually to make a difference. Simple actions we can take include learning to grow your own food, buying more local food, organizing with your neighbors to grow food together, and preserve food when it is in season. You can ask your grocery store for more local food and for information on how the food is processed. On a larger scale it is important to raise the issue of food with your neighbours and with local politicians to create action to address food insecurity.

by Karen MacKinnon
guest blogger

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Warm Homes, Smaller Footprint

Warm Homes, Smaller Footprint
click image to enlarge

Responsible Energy Action will sponsor an energy efficiency event on Thursday, January 28th, 6:30 pm at the People’s Place (Antigonish Public Library).

The presentation will cover how Nova Scotians use energy, and tips and tricks for saving money, staying warm, and reducing your footprint.

Guest presenters from the Clean Foundation and Efficiency Nova Scotia will provide information on the various energy efficiency programs available.

There will be refreshments.

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Climate Change and Health


The link between climate change and health is clear. It’s been called “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century” by the World Health Organization — but it is also seen as an ideal opportunity to seek ways to both reduce climate change while greatly improving health.

Climate change is connected to health in many ways:

Climate change shapes what we eat. Although local food production is increasing, much of our food is imported from other parts of the world where a drought can wipe out crops and increase scarcity. That makes it harder for us to find and afford foods.

Climate change and the air we breathe are closely linked. For example, the burning of fossil fuels creates air pollution that effects air quality and worsens conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) — and it makes climate change worse. In China, they recently declared a “red alert” — the country’s highest alarm level, in response to thick smog. Their pollution is due largely to the burning of coal.

Climate change increases the likelihood of certain infections. Lyme disease is moving its way north because warmer conditions are better for the ticks that carry the infection. Mosquitoes carry malaria, and they like warm, damp conditions — malaria is now being seen in places in the world where it was once uncommon.

Climate change contributes to more heat-related illnesses. People have died because of increased heat, sometimes in great numbers, as they didn’t have the means to protect themselves. Weather events such as floods and typhoons are more likely to happen with climate change, resulting in more illnesses, injuries, and loss of homes.

Climate change erodes our coastlines through rising sea levels. Communities and fisheries are at risk. Our homes and employment are part of what makes us healthy, and coastal communities know the threat that our way of life faces.

Climate change makes places unlivable. A newer term, “environmental refugees”, has been used to describe people fleeing at least in part because they are unable to grow food or because of flooding. The conflict in Syria is influenced by environmental conditions. As Nova Scotia prepares to welcome refugees from Syria, it is inevitable that refugee numbers will increase due to climate change.

Healthcare providers recognize that addressing climate change and improving health go hand-in-hand. An open letter signed by doctors was just released and given to the federal Minister of the Environment as representatives gather in Paris for COP 21. The asks included an ambitious climate agreement, integrating health into climate change policies, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and prioritizing actions that both reduce climate change and improve health.

This last ask is where local efforts fit in. We can all promote active transportation through how we design our streets and sidewalks, how we create supportive environments at work, and whether we decide to leave our cars behind and walk or cycle to work and school.

We can advocate for the phase-out of coal powered electricity in Canada and increase our use of renewable energy. This might mean, for example, solar panels on our homes, or new wind farms. Any significant change requires a plan that ensures employment for people involved in fossil fuel industries, but, ultimately, ending dependence on fossil fuels improves air quality, decreases deaths from cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and limits global warming.

We need to adapt to environmental changes caused by climate change, but we also have to pursue every opportunity to combat it.

Using the fact that climate change is a health issue makes it easier to see how we are all personally impacted. It also makes it clearer that by taking action we can improve our own health as well as that of those around us.

By Monika Dutt, Medical Officer of Health (Cape Breton, Guysborough, Antigonish),
guest blogger

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March for Climate Action in Antigonish on November 29

DSC_0336Antigonish will be on the streets on Sunday, November 29, marching to urge world leaders to take aggressive action on climate change. The Global Climate March is an international initiative happening in communities all over the world on the eve of the UN climate summit in Paris. So far over 2100 events have been registered worldwide and the list is growing.

The Antigonish event coincides with the annual Christmas Parade so the climate marchers will join that procession. Of course the parade will also include Santa Claus, one of the world’s best known climate change victims. Local organizers have not yet been able to reach Santa for a statement. They expect him to endorse their efforts to draw attention to the plight of the North, where the climate is changing more quickly than anywhere.

Before the march, local experts will facilitate workshop sessions on how to address climate change through policy, technical solutions and leadership. Beginning at 12 noon at Desmond Hall, participants will be able to join one of the workshop sessions.

Workshop & Climate March Schedule for November 29

12 – 1:30 pm: Climate Change Workshop at Desmond Hall (Markin Global Complex, Coady Institute, StFX University)

1:40 pm: Gather for March, with the Christmas Parade, at Keating Millennium Centre parking lot (StFX University), behind the “Global Climate March” banner

2 – 3 pm: Global Climate March, finishing at the Antigonish Mall (133 Church Street)

Everyone is encouraged to join the workshop, the march or both. Wear GREEN!

For more information or to get involved, please contact Jason Fitzpatrick at or 902 846-0056 or visit the facebook event page at

See the press release here.

by Jay Ross

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How Will Sea Level Rise Affect Antigonish?

Sea level is rising on the shores of Antigonish county and is certain to continue. But how much and with what impacts? In this post we try to answer these questions, drawing on global and local sources.

Rates of relative sea level rise due to glacial isostatic adjustment (from The State of Nova Scotia's Coast Report)
Rates of relative sea level rise due to glacial isostatic adjustment (from The State of Nova Scotia’s Coast Report)

Even without climate change, the land is sinking in this area and will fall another 17 cm by 2100 (20 cm/century).  Melting glaciers and polar ice caps add to the volume of the ocean; and as it warms, it expands. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says these processes will result in a further global average sea level rise of between 28 and 98 cm by the end of this century, depending on our ability to control greenhouse gas emissions. Even the “best case” scenario studied by the IPCC suggests that climate change will result in additional rise of 44 cm, give or take 15 cm.  (See the IPCC projections here). Adding the 17 cm due to sinking land, and allowing for uncertainty, we would expect sea level rise of between 45 cm and 78 cm by 2100.

That is the best case. On the high side it could be over a metre (115 cm). As bad as this sounds, it is not the whole story.  First, it does not take into account the chance that marine-based sectors of the antarctic ice sheet will melt.  These are attached to Antarctica but extend offshore and are supported by the sea bed. The melting of this ice is not well understood by scientists so the IPCC does not include it in any of its scenarios. They do say, however, that if it does occur, there is “medium confidence that this additional contribution would not exceed several tenths of a metre of sea level rise during the 21st century”.  So, roughly, all things considered, in Antigonish we are looking at between ½ and 1½ metres of sea level rise in this century.

Second, these estimates are for the average sea level.  Another concern is what will happen during exceptionally high tides, especially when these occur during the storms that are expected to become more frequent and more extreme as the climate changes.

Third, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the upper limit of this estimated range. James Hansen and colleagues published a paper in July this year which the Washington Post covered under the headline “The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future.” In the paper, an all-star lineup of climate scientists predict that the contribution of melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will be greater than is generally appreciated and that even if we are able to limit global mean temperature increase to less that 2°C, we could still see “at least several metres” of global mean sea level rise. They argue that because of the “extreme sensitivity of sea level to ocean warming and the devastating economic and humanitarian impacts of a multi-meter sea level rise”, this, rather than the 2°C limit, should determine our allowable planetary greenhouse gas emissions. [UPDATE, March 22, 2016: This paper, published online before peer review has now been published in a peer reviewed version, with little change.]

What physical evidence is there of these processes at work so far in Antigonish and what are the expected future impacts?  Tim Webster and others, in a report released in 2010, described their use of airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, tidal gauge data, and analysis of aerial photography from 1971 to 2007 to look at flood and erosion risk due to sea level rise in Antigonish County.

Some of their results include the following.
1. The aerial photography series suggests that although Pomquet beach is growing, other beaches (at Cape Jack and Mahoney’s) are in retreat.
2. Using historical hourly tide gauge data from the nearest location (Pictou), and assuming that the rate of sea level rise due to climate change (50 cm) and land subsidence (20 cm) totals 70 cm, the authors calculate that a 2.27 m storm-related flood level (which occurred on December 30, 1993) “had a 65% probability of occurring within 19 years and a 99% probability of occurring within 45.5 years”. This is based on historical storm surge data so would underestimate actual risk if future storms are more severe or frequent than past storms. Nor does it include the potential “several tenths of a metre” of SLR from the marine antarctic ice sheet.
3. Inundation maps (using the same conservative assumptions) show the effects of the 2.27 m storm event with the addition of 70 cm for expected sea level rise over the next century. To see these maps go to the report.

A report on coastal planning in Antigonish County, written by Amber Nicol in 2006, identifies specific hazards related to sea level rise and climate change. Apart from the effects of a rise in mean sea level, the expected reduction in winter sea ice would reduce protection against erosion during powerful winter storms. Possible effects of such storms include overwash and breaching of barrier beaches.  Because it is growing, Pomquet beach may be less vulnerable to storms than the beaches protecting Antigonish and Tracadie Harbours. Nicol notes that breaches have recently occurred at the entrance to Antigonish Harbour at Mahoney’s beach on Boxing Day in 2004, and on the western side of Tracadie Harbour prior to October 2000.  If protected salt marshes become more open to the ocean, the implications for biodiversity, habitat preservation, and shoreline integrity are potentially serious.

To conclude, there is strong consensus that we should expect the mean sea level to rise between ½ and 1½ metres this century, a consequence of the combined effects of sinking land and rising global mean sea level due to climate change. With more frequent and severe storms, the probable effects include accelerated shoreline erosion, damage to property and infrastructure, and reduced ecosystem resilience. But if some credible projections are accurate, and the actual rise in global sea level is several metres within the same time frame, the unprecedented loss of property and habitat in this part of Nova Scotia may seem trivial in comparison with the catastrophic consequences for many of the largest population centres on the planet.

by Jay Ross

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Pay Now, Play Later

You can pay now and play later OR you can play now and pay later. Either way, you have to pay.

− John C. Maxwell

I think Mr. Maxwell might have borrowed liberally from the FRAM oil filter slogan of the 1970s when he made this remark. Regardless, I have a lot of respect for this sentiment and I believe it is a notion that often goes unheeded in North American society. Allow me to illustrate its intent with a personal anecdote…

By the spring of 2011, I had become painfully aware that I, personally, needed to do something to shelter myself and my family from the impending energy crisis we currently face and the worsening effects of climate change. Not only was the federal government of the day failing to act on renewable energy opportunities and climate change, but actively stifling alternatives to dwindling fossil fuel supplies and ignoring the reality of climate change. So, after much research and soul-searching, my wife and I decided to invest in the PV solar system detailed here.

We made this decision based not only on a moral principle but on a solid financial argument. It had to be, as we did not have the money to fund this project independently and, therefore, needed to re-mortgage our home to pay the capital cost. I prepared a financial proposal for our mortgage holder (Bergengren Credit Union), which was approved on the spot, based on the facts I had presented.

So, off we went on our solar odyssey and, in September 2011, we started collecting and using our own energy from the sun to power and heat our home. The first year passed and everything worked just as predicted. We produced half of the electricity we used that year, at a price (13.8¢/kWh), just slightly higher than that charged by NSPI at that time (13.3¢/kWh). In other words, for that first year we paid about a half a cent premium for the electricity collected by our system. Not bad, right? We figured the extra money we spent that year (about $50) was money well spent on the health of the planet.

Something interesting happened on that first anniversary, however. I felt I had somehow fallen short of doing my part to help mitigate climate change. I thought, “Well, producing half of our electricity is okay but…what if we could produce 100% of our electricity? How cool would that be?” Well, we had already “maxxed out” the amount of PV we were allowed to install, so the challenge became, “How to live within the constraints of our solar infrastructure?”

Again, after exhaustive research, I discovered that we Canadians are the most wasteful consumers of electricity in the world, while paying the least for this electricity of any country in the world (see: Lindsay Wilson). It turned out that by monitoring our usage and employing some easily attained conservation measures, we were able to reduce our consumption to the point where, since 2013, our PV system has produced all the electricity we have used at our home (with a little left over, each year, to sell to NSPI!). Again, not bad, right?

Well here’s the real treat: we will continue to produce our own electricity, at 13.8¢/kWh, for at least the next 20 years while NSPI is currently charging almost 16¢/kWh (with another rate hike expected in the new year). That’s right, for every future NSPI rate increase (averaging 5%/year over the last ten years), we will be saving that much more money on future electricity costs. Our system will have paid for itself in about 10 years from now and will then continue to provide us with “free” electricity afterwards, while still having ten years of warranty remaining on all major components of the system.

In the spirit of the opening quotation, I would characterize what I have done as paying now and playing later. We will all have to pay, one way or another, for the energy we use now and into the future. In essence, I have chosen to pay now, as I find the future difficult to predict. Everybody has to make their own choices for their own reasons. This story is meant to explain some of the choices I’ve made regarding the costs of energy.

by Peter Ritchie
guest blogger

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Municipal Active Transportation Plan Being Reviewed

Following the public launch of the local climate change film Listening to Our Neighbours, the largest number of written responses we received were on the subject of safe biking routes. To help inform any citizen-led initiatives on this issue, we asked for a peek at the Active Transportation Plan that has been in development through a joint effort by Town and County.  Today we received this reply:

“The Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish are dedicated to fostering more active lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities. To this end the Town and County engaged MMM Group to help develop an Active Transportation plan through community engagement and input.  The resulting report offers guidelines and suggestions for AT actions that may work in our community, these along with additional information are currently being presented and shared with Councils.

“Watch the Town of Antigonish ( and Municipality of the County of Antigonish ( websites for updates and ways to be involved in Active Transportation.

If you have questions or ideas for AT you can contact Marlene Melanson at the  Municipality of the County of Antigonish (902-863-1141) or Emily Kehoe at the Town of Antigonish (”

Or you can subscribe to this blog and find out as soon as the plan is available.

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Vote for Climate Leadership

canada-election-leaders-610pxOn our Actions page we suggest voting for a stable climate in the federal election on October 19. But as that date approaches we think this message deserves more emphasis.

Recent polling suggests that the economy tops the list of Canadians’ ballot box concerns, far ahead of the environment, which is second. This reflects our natural tendency to prioritize current problems, like the state of the economy, over those with long-term consequences, like climate change. Politicians recognize this and we tend to reward them for short-term thinking and a lack of visionary leadership. This can lead to disaster if, like climate change, the problem requires urgent action now to avoid big problems later.  So a vote for sound climate policy means voting for long-term thinking and responsible leadership. Specifically, we need to react to the long-term threat of climate change now by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions quickly, in time to avoid a variety of catastrophic tipping points that scientists tell us are becoming more likely by the moment.

We know something about what the parties propose to do about climate change at the national level, including limiting pipeline construction, investing in clean energy, and pricing carbon. Summaries of their relevant policy statements are here and here, and some deeper analysis is here. We are non-partisan so we won’t say which candidates we prefer in this region. But you can ask them what they (and their parties) will do to slow climate change. Then decide for yourself.

The election, coincidentally, occurs just before the final UN climate summit in Paris that is expected to produce the agreement to replace the Kyoto accord. Canada has already submitted its proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This may not be ambitious enough and some parties have promised to increase our commitment. Another problem with Canada’s submission is that there is no plan included to accomplish this goal. One question for the candidates is therefore: How will your target be achieved?

In Central Nova, including the Town of Antigonish and western parts of Antigonish County, you can find out what your candidates think by attending an all-candidates “conversation” on Thursday, October 15 (7-9 pm at St. Andrew Junior School), hosted by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.  Climate change is one topic on the agenda.

In Cape Breton Canso, which now includes the part of Antigonish County east of Antigonish Harbour and the South River, an all-candidates debate has already happened (September 30) but another will be hosted by CBC radio at the Big Pond Fire Hall on Thursday, October 8 at 7 pm, with all questions to come from the audience. Look for a podcast of the event at Information Morning Cape Breton.

To find out when, where and how to vote, visit the Elections Canada website.

by Jay Ross

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