HalifACT leads climate change actions

HalifACT leads climate change actions

< Back to Articles | Topics: Responsible Business | Published: April 8, 2021

With Earth Day (April 22) around the corner, the climate crisis is staring us down. It is an urgent, complex and global issue that seems to bounce back and forth between the front and back burner of leadership attention. The low-carbon future requires an overwhelming amount of necessary changes to our current society and systems.

The climate action movement in Halifax not only needs a plan but a strong commitment on all levels. In response to the climate emergency announcement by the Regional Council on January 29, 2019, HalifACT has sprung into action.

HalifACT is one of the most ambitious climate plans in Canada. It was developed with deep engagement across stakeholders and communities, with a lens of equity and inclusion. The Municipality took on a leadership role by creating the department.

“The plan positions the municipality as a leader in climate action,” says Taylor Owen, Climate Change Specialist, Halifax Regional Municipality. “By achieving our net-zero targets, we will be doing our part to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050; a goal which is supported in the 2015 Paris Agreement.”

The targets and actions of the plan require shared implementation across many organizations in the community. The plan helps communities adapt to environmental changes and climate hazards by raising awareness and being prepared. It also creates a better future for generations by saving them money, cutting on emission, preventing loss and strengthening their communities. This collaborative process requires efforts from both municipal government and communities.

“The plan was created using scenario modelling of our future greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts, and it provides Halifax with a plan to be resilient and net-zero by 2050,” says Owen. “These goals are achievable, but it requires us to act swiftly together towards this shared goal.”

HalifACT engagement session. Photo credit: Halifax Regional Municipality HalifACT team

Implemented in Spring 2018, the plan has engaged people to discuss realistic and measurable emission reduction approaches and a target of 75 per cent below 2016 levels by 2030. This transformational plan aligns the municipality’s efforts to support an equitable shift to a low-carbon economy by 2050.

“The plan is informing and guiding the development of our Regional Planning process and land-use by-law updates, and internal and external stakeholders have continued to come together to co-create climate solutions,” says Owen.

The municipality is actively working towards tackling climate change and preparing to increase the resilience of the city’s communities, infrastructure and environment against possible impacts through initiatives including: community-based vulnerability mapping; volunteer-led Joint Emergency Management teams; Community Mobilization Teams being piloted through the Public Safety Office; and floodplain studies.

“This includes electrifying the municipality’s fleet and public transit systems, retrofitting buildings, improving waste diversion, reducing energy in our water utility, and building to a net-zero standard,” says Owen.

“A net-zero climate resilient municipality will see a shift to electric vehicles, supported communities and infrastructure that are able to rebound better and faster from climate hazards like hurricanes, a shift to a green economy, and buildings, both built and retrofitted, that consider climate resiliency and our transition to a low carbon economy.”

Premier Iain Rankin announced a $19-million investment in rebates to encourage Nova Scotians to buy electric vehicles and make their homes more energy efficient. Showing no COVID-19 interruptions or budgetary restrictions can slow the acceleration of the energy efficiency progress.

“We are also working to create the opportunity for partnerships and discussions on how the larger business community can be involved in HalifACT through open forums, such as the Mayor’s recent Economic Roundtable on the Green Economy with the Halifax Partnership,” says Owen.

Solar City participant home with new solar panels. Photo credit: Halifax Regional Municipality HalifACT team

Businesses can support the plan by implementing several climate actions. For example, they can transition their transport fleet to electric vehicles, take advantage of energy efficiency programs through Efficiency Nova Scotia, explore solar electricity and start thinking about future climate risks to their business operations.

“We are willing to partner and explore collaboration to advance the actions in HalifACT as it relates to local Halifax businesses,” says Owen.

On an individual level, everyone has a role to play. Both big and small actions include:

  • Signing up for climate change related newsletters, webinars and e-courses to help integrate climate solutions into daily life;
  • Diving deep into the Climate Atlas of Canada;
  • Getting children involved in climate conversations;
  • Speaking to a financial advisor about clean energy investments;
  • Switching to renewables;
  • Reducing food waste;
  • Buying an electric vehicle;
  • Increasing the resilience of the community to climate hazards; and
  • Supporting climate-related financial disclosure.

“The municipality serves in the best interest of the public, and residents can play a role in climate action at the municipal level,” says Owen. “Voicing climate concerns with municipal Councillors is a powerful tool for change. We’ve made a list of climate actions that anyone can do.”

HalifACT is a platinum sponsor of the 2021 Smart Energy Event, taking place virtually from April 20 to 22, 2021. The event explores innovative energy sources to provide smart energy options for consumers. Speakers, experts and innovators in technologies that are transforming the energy landscape will be at the 17th annual conference to network and exchange ideas.

“We are currently focused on building public awareness and engagement,” says Owen. “Last fall, we hosted a TEDxHalifax Global Countdown watch party on climate action and Halifax’s response.” This hour-long video of the episode showcases both local and global talent from people around the world.

“We are also engaging with students and young professionals to develop solutions to local climate challenges through a HalifACT Climate Action Hackathon, in partnership with Dalhousie’s Shiftkey Labs and the Halifax Innovation Outpost.”

With over $2 million in savings estimated annually, the implementation of this plan’s third-year project is paramount. This reduction in corporate building emission by 15 per cent from the 2018 levels is equivalent to plating 235,000 tree or taking 1,112 vehicles off the road.

Moreover, 26 solar energy systems––ranging from solar hot water, hot hair to electric––have been installed on municipality buildings. LED retrofit is in progress for more than 40 thousand streetlights.

“As you can see from HalifACT, there is no one solution to address the climate crisis in the municipality,” says Owen. “Instead, there are many actions that when accomplished together, will help us achieve our goal.”■

View from Viola Desmond Ferry. Photo credit: Halifax Regional Municipality

< Back to Articles | Topics: Responsible Business

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