A private members bill that would bind the province to a 2040 net zero carbon emissions target, while requiring yearly reporting on climate change progress on this target, passed unanimously in the legislature on Tuesday.
The bill, the Net Zero Carbon Act, was introduced by Green MLA Lynne Lund. The bill entrenched in legislation the target of P.E.I. achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
This target was announced by Premier Dennis King in October, but was not accompanied by legislation from the governing Progressive Conservatives binding the province to it.
King has said his goal is to see P.E.I. be the first province to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero.
Lund’s Net Zero Carbon Act would require the provincial government to report each year on how much greenhouse gases the province is emitting. It would also require yearly reports on progress of the government on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in managing the risks of climate change.
"It basically creates an accountability framework for the targets that have been put forward already,” Lund told members of the legislature on Tuesday. “So essentially there would be reporting requirements on how we are going towards meeting the goals that we said we were going to meet."
Lund’s bill was met with support by Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers, whose department has been tasked with leading the province’s efforts to reach net zero by 2040.
Myers proposed an amendment to the bill that would require cabinet to proclaim this bill by Dec. 31, 2021.
The bill passed second reading on Tuesday night, with the amendment proposed by Myers.
This is not the first time that Lund, an Opposition MLA, has introduced legislation that has set key milestones for climate change policy of the governing Progressive Conservatives.
In July 2019, Lund introduced a bill that set a more stringent climate change target of reducing emissions to 1.2 megatonnes per year by 2030. The previous 2030 target was 1.4 megatonnes per year.
In an interview, Lund said she consulted with Indigenous organizations in P.E.I., as well as conservation groups and staff with the UPEI Climate Lab. Aside from the reporting requirements, she said the bill would bind government to be transparent in other ways.
“This mandates consultation with academics, with Indigenous groups, with business communities, with municipalities. And all of the advice that the minister receives through that process remains transparent," Lund said.
Lund said the next steps in transitioning P.E.I. off carbon-intensive fuels ultimately lie with the governing PCs.
"They've committed to the targets, they've passed legislation unanimously, they have a list of early actions they can take. What are you going to do? We have given you this framework, what do you intend to fill it with?" Lund said.
Stu Neatby is the political reporter for The Guardian.