New Brunswick Provincial Government releases Climate Change Plan
By Alanna Waberski and Isaac McLellan
On September 21, 2022, the Government of New Brunswick released its renewed climate change action plan which aims to help the province adapt to climate change while steering New Brunswick toward a greener future.
The plan, titled Our Pathway Towards Decarbonization and Climate Resilience, (the “Plan”) spans over a five-year period from 2022 to 2027 and features three pillars: government leadership and accountability; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and preparing for climate change.
With regards to reducing emissions, New Brunswick has led the Country since 2005, having achieved a 37% reduction thus far, with a view for 46% by 2030.
There are 30 “New Action” items listed in the Plan, with the Province committing to delivering on 14 of the 30 actions in the next two years, including: transitioning to zero-emission freight, setting electricity efficient performance targets and reporting requirements, restructuring their long-term financing and payment options for energy efficiency programs, regional transportation plans, standards relating to landfill gas management systems, and providing biodiversity studies and information. The remaining 16 actions, such as assessing the carbon stock of forests and wetlands and training tradespeople in skills related to energy-efficient buildings, will take longer than two years to complete.
For the commercial clean energy sector, a few key points are worth noting in the Plan and arise in the commitment by the Province to develop a Clean Electricity Strategy (“CES”):
- The CES will identify renewable energy, including distributed energy, that may support the electricity grid, lower peak demand, and provide capacity support including the role of clean hydrogen, geothermal, renewable natural gas (natural gas produced from organic waste such as manure or landfills) and biomass;
- The CES is expected to include the development of two first-of-their-kind small modular nuclear reactors;
- The CES is to set a clear path to transition off coal-fired electricity; and
- The CES is expected to explore regional opportunities to share clean electricity resources to meet the increasing demand for electrification.
Of particular interest to developers is the Province’s commitment, in advance of pushing out the CES, to conduct a review of provincial energy legislation by 2024 for opportunities to further enable: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, investments in new clean fuels, and technologies and resources to be considered in the regulatory process.
Finally, the Province commits to enable or support the development of a number of clean energy projects, including to:
- enable the local production and use of renewable natural gas and clean hydrogen, including a commitment by 2025 to investigate and, if appropriate, set a minimum proportion of renewable natural gas and/or clean hydrogen in the provincial natural gas supply for gaseous fuel distributors; and
- support the development of strategic projects (e.g. anaerobic digesters and bioreactors) by 2027 to produce and utilize renewable methane from organic waste, including animal waste and byproducts.
Commercial operators should also take note that the Plan provides:
- a commitment to work to phase out heating oil use in all buildings (commercial, government and residential) including identifying transition support for heating oil delivery companies by 2030;
- a goal to have six percent of all sales for new light-duty vehicles (e.g. passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks) be electric vehicles by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, using incentives and programs to promote electric vehicles and support charging infrastructure in New Brunswick; and
- for the swift adoption of the most current version of the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings and the National Building Code of Canada and following adoption, the imposition of more stringent tiers within the code thereafter which should have broad implications on the construction industry.
As the New Brunswick Government changes environmental and regulatory systems, our Energy Practice Group at Stewart McKelvey is prepared to guide businesses through these changes. We offer a wide range of legal services including specific expertise in commercial, environmental and regulatory issues.
This update is intended for general information only. If you have any questions on the above we would invite you to contact the authors or any other member of our Energy Group.
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 Government of New Brunswick, “Updated climate change action plan released” (21 September 2022), online: GNB.ca <https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/news_release.2022.09.0508.html>.
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