Tackling climate change challenges

Tackling climate change challenges

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Wendy Luther, Halifax Partnership

Climate change is already affecting Halifax’s residents, communities, and economy – from rising sea levels to the economic and social impacts of extreme weather. The questions on my mind, and on the minds of many, are what kind of future Halifax do we want to live in, and how can we mitigate the impacts of climate change by pursuing and maximizing economic opportunities that put the well-being of our people and planet first?

In 2019, Halifax Regional Council declared a climate emergency, joining countries and major cities around the world, including nearly 500 Canadian municipalities. HalifACT is our city’s collective response to that declaration and is one of the most ambitious climate action plans in Canada with a goal to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.

HalifACT is as much an economic development plan as a climate action plan. It is a roadmap and a commitment to reduce emissions, switch to clean and reliable energy sources, and demonstrate local leadership in preparing for current and future climate impacts and resiliency.

The advancement of Halifax’s green economy to address climate change here and around the world is a major theme of Halifax’s new inclusive economic strategy for 2022-2027 – People. Planet. Prosperity. This new strategy focuses on ensuring that Halifax’s prosperity benefits the many and not the few and creates the kind of city we want future generations to inherit.

Halifax is well positioned to advance a green innovation, infrastructure, and jobs agenda driven by major investments from business and all orders of government, accelerated innovation, and strong partnerships between the private, public, post-secondary, and not-for-profit sectors. The transition to a low carbon economy will require the private and public sectors to invest more than $22 billion over 30 years in building retrofits, renewable energy, energy storage, transit systems, and active transportation infrastructure.

Increased investments in renewable energy and the shift to electric vehicles will require an expanded and modernized electric grid, storage systems, and charging stations. The production of green hydrogen will also require a smarter energy grid with greater capacity. Nova Scotia Power is developing opportunities for more wind and solar generation, battery storage, electric vehicles, and smart grid technology. There is also rising demand from residents and companies to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. These investments and new opportunities will stimulate business growth and innovation and generate employment, helping to build and strengthen our clean technology and renewable energy sectors.

As HalifACT reports, based on the low carbon pathway modeled for Halifax, the first ten years of actions (2020-2030) will result in an annual average 9,000 person-years of employment. Areas of employment growth include active transportation, local renewable generation, commercial vehicles, district energy, development and retrofitting of non-residential and residential buildings, personal vehicles, and transit infrastructure.

Halifax’s ecosystem is supporting the growth of our local, provincial, and regional green economy. Our city is becoming a hub for cleantech innovators and cross-sector collaborations to harness the power and potential of renewable energy and clean technology. Local companies and organizations leading the charge include CarbonCure (which won the prestigious NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE in 2021 for its low-carbon concrete technology), NOVONIX, Dalhousie University (which is leading world-class battery technology R&D in partnership with Tesla), Nova Scotia Power, Heritage Gas, LED Roadway Lighting, and Planetary Hydrogen.

Through the Halifax Innovation Outpost, a joint initiative of the Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Partnership to advance corporate innovation and address social and environmental challenges, we are supporting local startups, companies, and community organizations in developing prototypes aimed at reducing carbon emissions in Halifax. In February, we ran an innovation challenge focused on tackling climate change through green tech, green building, and green jobs. We awarded seven startups and community organizations $5,000 each, and we continue to support them while they develop ideas and prototypes that can be tested in real-life settings.

As we look to the future, everyone of us has a role to play in creating a resilient and prosperous Halifax. The “ACT” in HalifACT stands for Acting on Climate Together, and this is what it will take to address the climate challenges before us and pursue our best opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

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