The recently published United Nations' IPCC Report makes it unequivocally clear that we have a climate crisis that has to be addressed. Like so many others, our Council chapter members feel very strongly about this. Something has to be done and soon. Below is chapter member John Jacob's submission to EngageNL on climate change and biodiversity.
But first, let us tell you a little about our efforts regarding the PERT report and the province's economic recovery plan. (Ifyou read this introduction last month, skip down five paragraphs.)
Six of our Avalon Chapter members have made submissions to ENGAGENL on the province's economic recovery plan. We have put in a lot of work because we care passionately about this province and the future directions government may take.
As an environmental and social justice group we believe that governmental decisions over the last two decades have been blinkered. Too much influence has been given to business groups - groups that almost always look for short-term solutions to Newfoundland and Labrador's problems.
The business sector's bias is understandable. Their first priority is to make money today and tomorrow. But it is time for Government to recognize that that bias may not be in the long-term interest of the people of our province.
Both the environment and the world economy are changing at an unprecedented pace. Our worry is that our political leaders will continue to favour out-of-date "solutions" that are no longer in step with the direction the rest of the world is beginning to take. The prioritization of fossil fuel extraction, P3s and privatization are examples of this myopic thinking.
Avalon Chapter members have made the following submissions to EngageNL and government ministers.
General: Progressive revenue options and cost cuts - (See our July 16th submission.)
The Environment: Climate change, biodiversity and the PERT report
Health Care: Comments on the PERT report in relation to seniors and Health
K-12 Education: Our response to the 16 K-12 recommendations in the PERT report
The Fisheries: A way forward for the NL fishery
Taxation: Should we be increasing provincial income tax?
Will our perspective have any effect, or will we be seen as just another "impractical" community group with no understanding of how the economy works? We will have to wait and see. Below is John's submission on climate change and biodiversity. ______________________________________________________________________________ Comments on Climate Change, Biodiversity Challenges and the PERT Report Quote: “Our commitment to protecting the environment in Newfoundland and Labrador is steadfast. We cherish our land and waters in this province and it is our responsibility to safeguard them for future generations. Our government continues to support the development of a green economy and initiatives to move the province towards an environmentally and economically safe path forward.” Honourable Derrick Bragg, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment, June 5, 2020
The Greene Report, The Big Reset, purports to be “a transformational plan for the province that attempts to tie all aspects of the economy and society together to meet some of the biggest challenges and opportunities ever faced by the province” (p. 1). Humanity is facing a twin crisis as a result of global climate change and the loss of biological diversity. How well does the report address this crisis with respect to Newfoundland and Labrador?
Climate Change: Dealing with climate change requires reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere so as to achieve “net zero” by 2050 or even earlier. The report notes that the province is unlikely to meet its goal of 30% emissions reductions by 2030, while reaching zero net emissions by 2050 “will require tremendous effort” (p. 100). A number of solutions are offered, some such as “green” hydrogen being less realistic than others, given the time-scale involved. Much depends on hydroelectricity from Labrador, even though the reliability of Muskrat Falls power is yet to be confirmed and there is strong opposition in Labrador to any development at Gull Island. Recommendations:
NL Hydro/Nalcor should concentrate on completing the Muskrat Falls project, including hardening the Labrador-Island Link and all overland distribution and electrode lines, anticipating future severe winter icing conditions.
Communities downstream of Muskrat Falls must continue to be monitored for flooding and for methylmercury contamination of fish and wildlife, with compensation for any damage.
There should be no further hydroelectric development on the Churchill River, including none at Gull Island. Rather, we should be planning for a seamless transfer of Upper Churchill power to our low-carbon energy inventory in 2041.
Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation: The report notes (p. 124) that our province “is a beautiful, pristine place, full of creative and welcoming people.” But little or no recognition is given to our parks, ecological reserves, wilderness areas, and the other still largely intact natural landscapes within our public lands that are essential for the protection of wildlife and biodiversity – that is, for nature- as well as for our recreation. On the contrary, the promotion of a faster, easier environmental assessment process and “simpler” regulatory structure for mineral exploration and mining, as well as offshore exploration, “while continuing to protect the environment” (p. 83), shows a lack of understanding of the requirements for conservation. In the offshore, marine protected areas such as the Laurentian Channel MPA are seen in this report as impediments to industrial progress (p. 31), not as an essential part of our marine conservation strategy.
A process already exists for expanding wildlife habitat protection through the creation of additional parks and ecological reserves. The Newfoundland and Labrador 2020 Protected Areas Plan by the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) will raise our presently protected wilderness area from 6.9 per cent of our provincial lands and inland waters to 8.5 per cent (https://www.gov.nl.ca/ecc/homefornature/ ). This can be compared with the federal government’s goal of 25 per cent for Canada as a whole (www.canada.ca/our-nature ).
We must expedite action to meet our protected area goals by engaging communities using the WERAC consultation process.
We should consider more extensive habitat protection in Labrador, including working with Indigenous communities to establish Indigenous Protected Areas, following a model that has been successful elsewhere in northern Canada.
Forestry: Forestry is a well-established industrial activity in the province that has an additional function of protecting wildlife habitat. The Provincial Sustainable Forest Management Strategy 2014-2024 set the direction for healthy management of our slow-growing boreal forest for industrial and community uses, while protecting habitat for caribou and other species-at-risk. Provision in the strategy for maintaining large, intact forest landscapes ensures coexistence with valued wildlife. Recommendations:
We agree generally with PERT’s recommendations regarding forestry (p. 230), with emphasis on sustainability and carbon sequestration. However, we oppose any development of a biomass fuel industry that goes beyond efficient, secondary use of mill waste, not whole trees. Large-scale biomass fuel production from slow-growing boreal forest species is not sustainable and conflicts with efforts to mitigate climate heating1.
The current 10-year Forest Management Strategy will soon be due for review and updating. That should be done with full public consultation before any changes are made to current policy.
1 A large-scale biomass fuel industry has been established in western Canada and southeastern USA that turns whole trees into wood chips and pellets for European electrical generating plants. (https://www.policynote.ca/burning-our-way/).
John D. Jacobs, PhD. Professor of Geography, Memorial University (Retired) email@example.com 28 May 2021