September 12, 2022
This summer, I got to intern at East Coast Environmental Law. I was particularly excited about the opportunity because it was a chance to learn more about environmental law and policy in Atlantic Canada. Having grown up on the prairies, this was my first exposure to many local concerns on the east coast.
In my position, I conducted legal research into environmental laws in New Brunswick and began drafting parts of a public guide for the province. I wrote an introduction to how environmental law in New Brunswick works and produced an overview of the province’s key environmental legislation.
Reading through some of New Brunswick’s statutes such as the Pesticides Control Act gave me a new appreciation of just how complicated the law can be. Two things that stuck out to me during my research involved the administration of New Brunswick’s provincial parks and the province’s greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions targets.
In New Brunswick, the Minister of Natural Resources is responsible for public parks. My expectation was that parks would be the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment, as this was my experience in other provinces and the federal government. This was outside the scope of my research with East Coast Environmental Law, but I was curious to learn how the natural resources approach impacted governance of New Brunswick’s provincial parks.
The other area that stuck out to me (and that I want to talk about on my soap box) was New Brunswick’s codified GHG targets. The province’s Climate Change Act was passed in 2018 and set three emission limits for the Province: 14.8 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2020, 10.7 megatonnes in 2030, and 5 megatonnes in 2050. While I was happy to see limits coded into legislation, I had hoped for more ambition. New Brunswick’s emissions had already fallen below the 14.8 megatonne goal for 2020 by 2015 and dropped to 12.4 megatonnes in 2020 (https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/en/data-analysis/energy-markets/provincial-territorial-energy-profiles/provincial-territorial-energy-profiles-new-brunswick.html). I found two issues with the 5 megatonnes cap in 2050. The first is that a 5 megatonne cap is not necessarily the same thing as the net-zero emissions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has explained will be needed to minimize the effects of climate change. The second is that the falling cost of renewables and electric vehicles are likely to drive New Brunswick’s emissions below 5 megatonnes by 2050 anyway, and if you can achieve something by not doing anything, is it really a worthwhile goal?
I’m grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with East Coast Environmental Law. The staff have been great and fun to work with. They were all very helpful and supportive whenever I had questions. It was fascinating to learn more about what the other summer students were working on and to get engaged (with issues beyond my project) through them. I’m hopeful for more opportunities to work alongside East Coast Environmental Law in the future.
John's work with us this summer was funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program.