Establishing a need for a Trans-Regional Institution defending Atlantic Canada’s interests as the nation attempts to transition to cleaner energy alternatives
Blog post contributed by Rohan Mishra
Climate justice has been identified as a priority theme for Inspiring Communities, as we recognize the important intersections of climate change and equity. For the last several months, we have had staff engaged working on an Electric Vehicle pilot program exploration, and a climate change cohort convened in Cape Breton with our partners at Tamarack. Our vision to create a more equitable society includes climate justice as another form of social justice. We will soon post a call for applications for a six-month Climate Fellowship. Therefore, it is timely to share this post that Rohan Mishra submitted. Enjoy! Please share below any thoughts you have on this content for us or the author.
A meeting was convened in Pictou, Nova Scotia in June of this year to discuss some of Atlantic Canada’s biggest issues. The four Atlantic premiers were calling on the federal government to help set timelines for the proposed Atlantic Loop project (Doucette, K. 2022). The $5-billion project would connect the four Atlantic provinces – Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island – with hydroelectricity that would be generated in Newfoundland & Quebec. This is viewed as a key project to decarbonize the region, for Canada to attain its lofty climate ambitions of being net zero by 2050, and most urgently, to phase out coal from the region’s energy mix by 2030.
Time is running out to meet these targets. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia still rely on coal to meet their energy demands (Doucette, K. 2022) and renewable projects such as the Atlantic Loop take time to complete. This can be seen in the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project in Newfoundland & Labrador, which is already well behind schedule and has cost close to $6-billion more than the initial $7.4-billion amount proposed for the project (Smellie, S. 2022). The Federal government provided the bailout, and were sued by the Innu First Nation for failing to consult with them before proceeding with the project (Melnitzer, J. 2021).
In the case of the Atlantic Loop, two frailties of federalism & climate change policies are being exposed – a lack of leadership and faltering collaboration (Harrison, K. 2013). The Federal government is possibly pondering whether or not to fund the project, as valuable time passes by, perhaps assailed by apprehensions after the experience with the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project. So, despite all parties wanting to sanction the project, the financing and timelines are proving to be veto points.
Hoffman (2011) spoke at great length about the importance of bottom-up approaches in the fight for climate change, pointing out there has been enough evidence to suggest that top-down approaches to combat climate change haven’t been a success and are failing to meet their targets. The UN Secretary announced in 2009, the year that the Copenhagen summit was held, “National governments can have their national policies, but after all it is provincial governments who have to implement these policies and even from this kind of bottom-up support, policies will be much more effective than top-down policies.” (Belanger, A. 2011).
Some provinces and states in the USA and Canada have filled the leadership vacuum which is left by federalism and have pioneered policies to combat climate change. The provinces have attempted to counter this void by joining the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) in conjunction with seven Western States of the USA. The WCI members have sued the federal government to force development of baseline national standards, though a dozen climate-laggard states have petitioned the courts to block national GHG regulations (Rabe 2011). The only member of the Atlantic Provinces that is represented at a political institution of this scale is Nova Scotia, which joined the WCI only in 2018. Quebec, who will be a producer for the Atlantic Loop project, is also part of the WCI. There is, however, an absence of a domestic trans-regional political institution that will look after the interests of the region and its path to being net zero by 2050. Had there been such an institution present today, the Atlantic provinces could have defended
their interests in a more structured manner and apply some real pressure on the Federal government to deliver on financial commitments and timelines for the project.
In Pictou, when the four Atlantic premiers met earlier in this summer the proposed renewable energy project was high on their agenda. The region has since seen the wrath of hurricane Fiona in the month of September and is currently recovering from the devastation that the storm caused. The warming climate and rising sea levels are only going to make such storm surges more severe and dangerous (Center for Climate & Energy Solutions, 2019). There is no doubt that Atlantic Canada is at the forefront of climate change, owing to the fact that most civilization is settled off the Atlantic coast. Hence, establishing a trans-regional body that will protect the region’s interests and accelerate the decarbonization, mitigation and adaptation of the region in the face of climate change through projects like the Atlantic Loop should be a priority for the Atlantic Provinces, if they are serious about achieving their climate goals and protecting the region’s interests.
Rohan Mishra is a student at University of New Brunswick in the Master of Environmental Management program, due to graduate in 2023. He has a Bachelor of Technology in Biotechnology from the SRM Institute of Science & Technology.
Submitted blog posts may be edited for grammar and clarity. Inspiring Communities takes no responsibility for errors, factual or otherwise, nor credit for original ideas in the content presented.
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- Doucette, K. (2022, 29 June). Atlantic premiers say decision needed soon from Ottawa
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- Melnitzer, J. (2021, 25 August). Ottawa’s Muskrat Falls bailout triggers First Nations
lawsuit. Retrieved from https://financialpost.com/commodities/energy/failure-to-consultottawas-muskrat-falls-bailout-triggers-first-nations-lawsuit
- Rabe, M. (2011, 16 May). Contested Federalism and American Climate Policy.
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- Smellie, S. (2022, 21 March). Muskrat falls hydro generating station could take another
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