Editor’s note: The following open letter was sent to the Premier of Nova Scotia and relevant ministers.

Dear Premier Houston and Honourable Cabinet Ministers;

The Offshore Alliance congratulates you all on your recent election as Nova Scotia’s next leaders. Now your real work to address climate change begins.

Your team comes to power at a pivotal time for our country, our province and our people. Greenhouse gases continue to accumulate, and the impacts of climate change are ever more acute and distressing.

The summer of 2021 alone provided many examples, including the devastating wildfires in central and western Canada. Closer to home, we’re experiencing one of the highest rates of sea-level rise in the country, with coastal erosion impacting businesses, communities and habitats alike.

A course correction is urgently needed. Successive Nova Scotian governments have prioritized short-term economic gains from offshore fossil fuel exploration and development over meaningful climate action and the preservation of marine ecosystems and fisheries which are the backbone of our sustainable economy.

In the face of the growing climate crisis, the province continued to invest in offshore oil and gas development activities. Meanwhile, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board juggles duelling mandates to protect the marine environment and promote resource extraction. Ill-spent tax dollars backed an industry whose expansion places our climate, health and livelihoods at unacceptable risk.

Nova Scotians expect your government to pivot towards a sustainable direction.

Political rhetoric and inaction are out of step with reality. Calls continue to come loud and clear from experts, labour and even many in the fossil fuel industry. The time for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions still driving global warming, and a just transition to a low-carbon economy is upon us.

Based on this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the United Nations called for an immediate end to new fossil fuel development, calling global temperature rise a “code red for humanity.” Further, the UN advocates for shifting fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy.

In May 2021, the International Energy Agency (IAE) urged a halt to new fossil fuel projects by year’s end, saying climate change is “the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

Abacus Data poll showed 61 per cent of Canadian oil and gas workers believe the time is here to pivot towards a net-zero emission economy, with 69 per cent willing to consider being a part of the shift and solutions.

Unifor, representing over 12,000 workers in the oil and gas sector, is in support of a more ambitious plan to achieve greenhouse gas reductions provided supports are in place to help the workforce transition to a low-carbon economy.

Nova Scotians overwhelmingly want to live in a low-carbon economy. Never before has our province had a stronger, more straightforward imperative to take action and address our climate crisis.

Polling this summer by Narrative Research showed 4 out of 5 Nova Scotians want to see a transition to renewable energy and improved energy efficiency – as well as training and income support for affected oil and gas workers. The polling, commissioned by the Council of Canadians, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Ecology Action Centre, also revealed widespread agreement that any post-pandemic recovery must prioritize support for people who have been made vulnerable by the current economy.

Thirteen municipal governments across Nova Scotia have agreed offshore drilling is not worth the risk it poses to our communities, or vital fisheries and tourism industries. These municipalities have signed on to a call for an immediate moratorium on offshore drilling and a public inquiry into its ecological, social and economic impacts.

As we rebuild from the economic and societal ravages of the pandemic, your government must focus on a just and green recovery – one that prioritizes collective well-being over the pursuit of profit for the few and recognizes that our own health relies on the health of the ecosystems that sustain us.

Demonstrate and lead a better way forward. The Offshore Alliance calls on the new government of Nova Scotia to protect the fisheries and ecosystems on Georges Bank (Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy) by extending the current oil and gas moratorium before the end of 2021.

We want the province to end all subsidies, supports and development of fossil fuels in Nova Scotia’s offshore by December 2022.

We are calling for the new government to hold a full public inquiry on the ecological risks and impacts of continued offshore oil and gas development and enact a moratorium on new offshore drilling and exploration until the inquiry is complete.

Finally, we are calling for an investment in policies and programs to support affected oil and gas workers and others through the transition to a low-carbon economy, to ensure no one is left behind.

The act of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a net-zero economy isn’t a political stance, rather a societal and ecological imperative. Government, industry and communities must come together to secure a safe and livable home for us all.

We, and all Nova Scotians, demand these values and specifics to be upfront in your Speech from the Throne and ministerial mandate letters.

Noreen Mabiza

Ecology Action Centre

Marilyn Keddy

Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia

Marion Moore

South Shore Chapter of the Council of Canadians