Turning Challenge Into Opportunity
A Climate Change Work Book
A Review

Larry Hughes
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. B3J 2X4

3 December 1999


In November 1999, Voluntary Planning conducted a series of workshops around the province of Nova Scotia; the workshops were to discuss the contents of the booklet "Turning Challenge into Opprotunity -- A Climate Change Work Book."

The following paper is a review of many of the subjects and statements raised in the work book and during the Halifax workshop.

Page 4

Our main trading partners such as the United States, Japan, and the European Union, have started to act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

This is not entirely true -- our major trading partner, the United States (as well as Canada and Australia) have yet to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Page 5

Source of GHG Emissions, Nova Scotia 1996

Carbon Dioxide85.6%
Nitrous Oxide4.0%
PFCs, CFCs, SF60.1%
Combustion Total87.6%

The above table, and the remainder of the document, focusses almost exclusively on carbon dioxide emissions. An alternative approach would be to consider how to control methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Methane has a global warming potential (GWP) of 21 (i.e., 21 times more than CO2), while nitrous oxide has a GWP of 310. In 1995, methane and nitrous oxide emissions were 78kt and 2kt, respectively; when multipled by their GWP, fugitive methane emissions (from coal mining) amount to some 1638kt CO2 equivalent, while nitrous oxide emissions (from automobiles and light duty trucks) amount to 650kt CO2 equivalent.

Together, methane and nitrous oxide emissions are responsible for about 12 percent of Nova Scotia's emissions. The province should consider the potential of controlling these emissions (especially fugitive methane) as part of its overall climate change strategy.

It is worth noting that much of Nova Scotia's 'stability' in emissions can be directly traced to the decline in the coal mining industry. While everyone would argue that declining emissions is a good thing, emissions reduction that results in unemployment should be countered with other employment opportunities.

A final observation regarding fugitive emissions from the energy industry. The decline in coal fugitive emissions will soon be replaced by those from the natural gas industry.

Nova Scotians can respond to climate change in two ways: mitigation and adaptation.

Or we can continue to do nothing.

The time for mitigation was 10 years ago when these problems were first recognized and politicians began promising that "something would be done". We have little choice now but to adapt; to suggest otherwise is foolhardy.

Earlier this decade Nova Scotians participated in the preparation of a Climate Change Strategy and the Clean Air Task Force report. A number of recommendations from this work have been incrementally put into effect.

Given the 13 percent increase in emissions in Nova Scotia (page 31), one can only conclude that the "recommendations from this work ... incrementally put into effect" had little effect.

Page 8

There is considerable uncertainty about how these "flexibility mechanisms" will work. Negotiating the rules and regulations has proven difficult. This uncertainty has made it more difficult for Canada and other countries to determine the cost of meeting the Kyoto Protocol.

The cost per tonne of CO2 has been quoted at a few cents per tonne up to $40 per tonne. Given these numbers it is quite easy to determine the cost of meeting the Kyoto Protocol.

Page 10

In Nova Scotia, for example, the provincial government, through its Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment, is a partner in nine climate change projects worth more than $1.3 million. These projects represent a step forward in creating public awareness and reducing emissions, but will not result in significant progress in and of themselves.

Sadly, this is very true. Which raises the point, why is $1.3 million being wasted on projects that will not result in "significant progress"?

Municipalities that become members of this Club promise to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 20 per cent below their emissions in 1990 by the year 2005, or within 10 years of membership. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and New Glasgow have joined the FCM 20 per cent Club.

Since there are no penalties for not fulfilling the promise, what is the point of making the promise?

Page 12

Public consultations were subsequently held in April and May 1992, and attracted approximately 100 people from several stakeholder groups. ... Priorities for action discussed related to the following areas: education, waste reduction, energy use, the role of technology, government, business, transportation, and management of air emissions. These actions were related to the NS Energy Strategy, the Economic Strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy.

Considering the rise in provincial emissions, one is forced to ask the question, why was nothing done with these recommendations? Or, if "action" was taken, why are the results so disappointing?

Climate change does not yet command the attention of Canadians to the same extent as other societal concerns such as health care, the economy, and education. The linkages between climate change and our economy, our health and other societal concerns are also not understood.

First, one is forced to ask "why"? Four or five major climate change summits have been held over the past few years (the most recent in November 1999 in Bonn). Canada invariably sends a deligation. Why is so little press generated from these event?

Second, what are the chances that today's Nova Scotia meetings are going to be any different from those held in 1992?

Third, the "actions" that have been funded (see above), will result in little, if any change.

Page 24 4.1.1 Immediate action is needed to limit the impact of climate change

Of course it is necessary; but to suggest that Nova Scotia is anything more than an insignificant player is misleading. If the province were to make a serious attempt at mitigation, it could justifiably call for other non-complying jurisdictions to cut back on emissions.

Given what is now known, the province should identify those areas that it wishes to protect from sea-level rise coupled with extreme weather events, and protect them.

A final note: the "precautionary principle" has nothing to do with a "no regrets" policy.

Page 27 4.1.4 Adaption needs to be facilitiated

The material associated with this section has nothing to do with adaptation.

During the Halifax workshop, it was suggested that adaptation in this context meant "personal change".

Page 33 5.1 Energy

Some points to consider in this section:

The "success stories" listed here have made minor contributions to reducing provincial greenhouse gas emissions.

Why not list a real success story, such as the district heating system in Charlottetown?

Page 37 5.2 Transportation

Some points to consider in this section:

Page 39 5.2.3 Adaptation

...adaptation may be an important part of a climate change strategy for the transportation sector.

It is not a case of "may be", it is a case of "will be". Sea-level rise will affect coastal highways, causing erosion and eventual roadway failure. New routes will be required, costing the province millions or isolated communities will be forced to travel longer distances, adding to the provincial debt.

Page 40 5.3 Buildings

Page 60 7.3 Policy Options

Page 63 6. Energy Efficiency Policies

District energy systems...

Given the location of Tuft's Cove, a district heating system should be in place in Halifax and Dartmouth. If the tax system is such that it is cheaper to burn fossil fuels inefficiently than to use them efficiently, then the tax system should be changed.

Page 63 7. Alternative Transportation Policies

  1. Transit fleet expansion will be a costly exercise -- where are the funds to come from for this? Reading this suggests that the focus of attention will be on Halifax -- ignoring rural Nova Scotia is inexcusable.

  2. Light rail construction, upgrading, expansion and modernization of rolling stock.

    Where was this statement copied from? There are no light rail systems in Nova Scotia, so how can they be upgraded, expanded, or modernized? Once again, where are the funds to come for this?

  3. Dedication of existing road space to transit and high occupancy vehicles is a laudable goal, but where do the authors proposed to put these additional lanes? Residents of Halifax are unlikely to accept the widening of any more streets.

  4. Transit priority measures.

    An excellent idea, but this often implies modifying the road system. Given the layout of Halifax/Dartmouth's streets, it would appear to be a non-starter.

    There is a need for grade-separation between transit vehicles and all other motorized vehicles.

  5. Transportation demand management programmes.

    Another excellent idea, but without a means whereby potential users are encouraged to make a modal shift, it will be doomed to failure. Penalizing the use of the automobile appears to be the only possible answer.

  6. Cycling and walking infrastructure primarily aimed at increasing commuting by walking or biking.

    Without a change in urban and suburban land-use patterns, these ideas, while good on paper, will have little impact on Nova Scotia. The percentage of people who are able to cycle to work is very small; devoting scare resources to this sector of society, while making everyone "feel good", will make limited impact on the province's greenhouse gas emissions.

  7. Improved inter-modal connectivity (e.g. bike racks on buses; services to airport and ferries).

    First, given the success of Park-and-Ride (especially in Sackville), one is forced to wonder why "Park-and-Ride" is not on this list.

    Second, it is hard to believe that anyone is seriously proposing "bike racks on buses." There are liability issues to be considered when putting a bike on a Metro Transit bus; not to mention the scheduling issues (i.e., time loss) when putting the bike onto the bus and removing it.

    Transporting bikes on long-distance buses or trains (e.g., to the Valley from Halifax) is a different matter, in that the time associated with taking the bike onto or off the vehicle can be incorporated into the schedule.

    Third, inter-modal connectivity on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry is quite reasonable, both from the perspective of the biking population and the rest of us.

    Fourth, proposing inter-modal connectivity to the Halifax airport is somewhat peculiar, given the percentage of Nova Scotians who travel by air. There are already airport shuttle buses between Halifax/Dartmouth and the airport, as well as taxi services.

  8. Transit infrastructure improvements such as advanced technology fare collection and customer information systems, bus shelters.

    "Advanced technology fare collection" -- what is wrong with a bus pass? The fare box still accepts tickets and cash.

    "Customer information systems" -- despite its failings, GoTime does work and HRM maintains a call-centre that will happily answer your bus-scheduling questions. An advanced routing finding program for Metro Transit has been developed by Dr. Larry Hughes at DalTech -- perhaps this will go partway to answering this problem.

    "Bus shelters" -- HRM does have bus shelters, many are vandalized, and should be repaired (but this costs money, which Metro Transit doesn't have).

If the province is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, the ideas proposed in this section will do little to meet this goal. Methods must be adopted that discourage single-occupancy vehicles and encourage multiple-occupancy ones, while at the same time, restrict the ways in which land is used.

As with much of this document, this section deals more with Halifax than the province, which ultimately defeats the purpose of a provincial plan to combat climate change.