On Tuesday, government announced its intention to achieve net zero energy consumption by 2030. During the event, government released a framework document outlining what it hopes to do. In attendance were Premier Dennis King, Steven Myers who is Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, and Natalie Jameson who is Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change. While the Premier and Minister Myers spoke about government’s intention, Minister Jameson left without making a comment.
First of all, the Official Opposition is glad to see government finally realize what we have been saying all along. Which is, we can be responsibly ambitious in our goals to become net zero.
We are also very happy to hear government say it wants to include Islanders and Island businesses in the development of this plan. We have said a number of times in the House that in order to transition to sustainable, green communities and economy, everyone must have an opportunity to be engaged in the process and be given a stake in the decision-making.
Past experience gives pause
On the surface this announcement seems to be a good start, but there are loose bits that give us pause. This is not the first time this government has made an announcement without having any coherent plan or action to reach the goal it is setting. One only has to look at the confusion and inaction around its housing plan, lands protection, active transportation and sustainable communities plans, and our current mental health crisis. And who can forget the confusion and lurching about on the school lunch program, early childhood education and day care centres, and the Water Act?
Yes, government has started taking baby steps on a number of these issues and for that we are thankful. We just wish government did not have to be hand held and reassured so much before making the right decisions. We wish our Ministers exhibited more confidence in the experts, the data and research already available, and their own staff who have been demonstrating and illuminating the right path forward.
Talk is not action
Another concerning factor is the propensity of successive PC and Liberal governments to use research and discussion as an excuse to not really do anything at all. You only have to look at the multitude of studies done on lands protection to see how they prefer talk over action when it comes to making tough decisions. If you need another example, just look at the delay over developing regulations for water usage and the proclamation of the Water Act. These ongoing delays over important decisions are creating unnecessary anxiety, concern, and conflict on PEI.
Talk is not action. History has proven good ideas die a slow death when we decide to just talk, and talk, and talk. We would hate to see this good idea get stalled in conversation. If it does, we will all pay a price we cannot afford.
Follow the available evidence
We also want to remind government there is already ample research and evidence to support immediate action and investment in things like sustainable and active transportation initiatives, building to net zero standards, and utilizing and storing renewable energy resources. If Ministers are struggling to locate this research, we are happy to share what we have and help them connect with the experts who also have this data.
Finally, we want to encourage government to begin taking action right now on the things we know are the right steps. The Special Committee on Climate Change has already made interim recommendations on actions to move us toward our targets. It was disappointing to not hear any commitment to act on those recommendations. Also, there were a number of submissions given to government on sustainable communities projects. These were also not mentioned. We aren’t lacking on ideas. What we are lacking is action from government.
The truth is, when it comes to climate change, time is not on our side. We are well past the point of talking. The science is clear and we need to act. We need to start moving in the right direction immediately, and allow the evidence to guide our next steps.
Let’s be engaged
We invite all Islanders and local businesses to engage in this process with government. We have an ambitious and attainable target. Let us make sure government meets it by contributing our knowledge and expertise to the process. Our participation will hold government to account as they work, or don’t work, on our behalf. Let’s have an action plan where the emphasis is less on the plan and more on the action.
Islanders can submit their ideas here: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/transportation-infrastructure-and-energy/net-zero
Peter Bevan-Baker is the Leader of the Official Opposition of Prince Edward Island