The New Brunswick government is setting out new targets in its latest climate change plan, including net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and electric vehicles making up half of all light vehicles sold in the province eight years from now.
The plan also recommits the Higgs government to sticking with the federally imposed carbon pricing system that adds 11 cents per liter to the price of gas this year.
But the document released Wednesday has no new targets or measures aimed at industry, the largest emitting sector in the province.
“It is just not fair,” said Louise Comeau, director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick’s climate change and energy solutions program.
“The key polluters in the province are not being asked to do their fair share. There’s no doubt about it.”
The plan says greenhouse gas emissions from industry make up 34 percent of the province’s total, the largest share.
Comeau says the provincial carbon price model needs to be tightened to give industry more of a financial incentive to reduce emissions but it’s unclear whether the government plans to do that.
The Higgs Progressive Conservatives recently submitted a carbon-pricing proposal to Ottawa for 2023 and beyond. Under the federal climate plan, provinces are expected to adopt more stringent pricing systems starting next year.
The provincial pricing proposal has not been made public yet. The existing system has consumers pay a carbon tax at the pumps that rises every year, while industrial emitters pay based on whether they’re reducing emissions relative to similar plans in their sector.
“Until we see the carbon pricing plan, we actually have no idea whether industry is being asked to do its fair share,” Comeau said.
Despite those concerns, Comeau applauded the adoption of measurable goals, including regular, interim five-year targets, which she says will help the public monitor progress.
“I think what we see in this climate plan update is the guidance of the premier in terms of generating measurable targets that can be reported on each year, that are simplified in that they’re clear,” she said.
“This gets you into something that is concrete in terms of reductions.”
The climate plan released Wednesday, which covers 2022 to 2027, says the government recognizes that “accelerated action is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” and that’s why it’s joining other jurisdictions in aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.
But the report cautions that getting there “will be challenging and requires strong and continued action.”
Each section of the report lays out existing policies that the government will continue to apply as well as new actions — except for the section on industry, which does not include any new actions.
Transportation 2nd largest emitter
The report says the province will continue to support energy efficiency programs, require industry reporting on emissions and administer the output-based carbon price for large emitters.
It repeats the Higgs government’s long-standing caveat that the pricing system has to recognize that large industrial plants in Canada compete against counterparts elsewhere that don’t have the added cost of a carbon tax on their bottom line.
“Significantly decarbonizing industry is essential to meeting our targets, addressing the impacts of climate change, and helping our companies to remain competitive in export markets,” it says.
After industry, transportation — including the cars or light trucks most people drive — is the second largest source of emissions in the province at 26 percent.
The new plan says the government will “work to have” six percent of new light-duty vehicle sales be electric vehicles by 2025, with the goal of 50 percent by 2030.
“New Brunswick will achieve the most significant reductions by reducing our reliance on personal vehicles, continuing to support the adoption of electric vehicles, and using alternative forms of transportation,” it says.
The plan also says the province will develop a clean electricity strategy by 2025 that will include achieving net-zero electricity emissions by 2035, matching the federal goal.
It will also set new electricity efficiency performance targets and reporting requirements for NB Power.
Electricity generation is the third-largest source of emissions in the province at 23 percent.
The plan also proposes to measure how much carbon dioxide the province’s forests absorb, incorporate climate change into the provincial Community Planning Act, and prepare for more extreme weather including floods, wildfires and drought.