For people living with the COVID-19 virus, this is a personal health crisis. Sadly, for some families it has been a personal tragedy. We are also now seeing the havoc the pandemic has wrought on the economy, and this affects all Nova Scotians. Many are wondering what can be done in our province to kickstart an economic recovery that helps individuals and businesses get through this difficult time and survive — and hopefully thrive — on the other end.
COVID-19 is the most pressing threat we face today, and our political leaders have been rightly focused on our collective health. But after the pandemic has passed, the threat of climate change will still be with us. There is, however, an opportunity born of this crisis to create the jobs we need now during a recovery phase that can also help ensure long-term sustainability. A clean stimulus package is no replacement for policies that address the systemic risk of climate change, but at this moment, we can look for opportunities to create jobs, promote greater social equity and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Nova Scotians have shown that we have the skills, the experience and the commitment to create green jobs. Recent examples include energy efficiency, community wind energy and a growing solar industry. Looking back a bit further, we were a national leader in waste reduction. We now need all levels of government to work together to create the conditions for many more of these types of shovel-worthy projects. What could a clean economic recovery look like for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?
- Widespread investment in deep energy efficiency retrofits for homes, apartment buildings and commercial buildings. Nova Scotia has many excellent programs already — let’s get going and expand this work to reach more low-income citizens and the small businesses hit the hardest by COVID-19. Not only does energy efficiency create good jobs and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it saves money on energy bills year after year.
- Promote new renewable energy projects. Nova Scotia has been very successful at developing community wind projects, and the solar industry is growing. Let’s get going on even more solar panels on the roofs of non-profit, First Nations and municipal buildings.
- Get our communities ready for more electric vehicles. EVs are the direction transportation is headed, so let’s get going and install more charging stations at community buildings, tourism hot spots and other high traffic areas.
- Use nature-based restoration methods to improve critical coastal ecosystems. Let’s get going to restore habitat, prevent erosion, reduce flooding and help reduce greenhouse gases by building up wetland “carbon sinks.”
- Create clean economy training programs to support Nova Scotian workers. Let’s get going on opportunities to help Nova Scotians pivot their careers toward clean jobs and sustainable industries.
- Give youth the opportunities to gain critical experience in the clean economy. Let’s get going and offer more internships to more young Nova Scotians, and open doors for the next generation of our workforce.
And many of these clean economy ideas aren’t just good for the province as a whole, they are beneficial to individual citizens, as they can get help on home upgrades, start a new and exciting career path or remove barriers to that electric vehicle purchase during a time when money will be tight.
We know that a clean economic recovery in Nova Scotia won’t be easy — it requires thoughtful, co-ordinated, forward-looking planning at all levels of society. But with strategic post-COVID investment, we can help make green jobs a powerful tool in the toolkit — and help both in the short-term and in the long-run. Nova Scotia has shown it can rise to many challenges, so let’s get going and meet the challenge of climate action