July 14/21, 2003

Nova Scotia renews commitment to better environmental management, protection

Collaborative approaches to environmental management, integration across provincial departments and improved delivery of environmental programs are among the highlights of a new plan released late last month by Nova Scotia Environment and Labour Minister Ron Russell.

The document, Towards a Sustainable Environment, emphasizes that responsibility for the environment is shared by citizens, governments, business and individual citizens alike. It reviews the province's successes in in delivering environmental programs and outlines several new initiatives that will be implemented over the next five years. Some of these new commitments include expanding air and water monitoring programs, adding five new nature reserves and two new wilderness areas to the protected areas network within the next year, and establishing a Forest Code of Practice.

"This plan is an important first step in improving government's capacity to apply principles of sustainability to all of our initiatives," Russell said. "I'm especially pleased to note that government is committed to lead by example. In the past we've done this through initiatives like environmentally responsible procurement. In the future we will add the development of a government-wide policy to incorporate environmental considerations into our programs."

The plan draws on research and consultation carried out by the province for a number of environmental initiatives in recent years such as Nova Scotia's new Energy Strategy and its comprehensive review of the Environment Act. The plan was developed by an interdepartmental committee representing key departments that share responsibility for the environment and for delivering environmental programs. Along with Environment and Labour, these departments include Agriculture and Fisheries, Economic Development, Energy, Natural Resources, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Transportation and Public Works, and Tourism and Culture.

As part of its integrated approach, the provincial government is already involved in the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI), which enables it to work with other governments and First Nations groups to address priority environmental, economic, social and cultural issues and to integrate policies and programs in these areas. To encourage participation of all sectors in the stewardship of sustainable communities, the plan calls for a review of barriers to private land conservation to determine options for increasing the contribution of private landowners and land trusts to the province's network of protected areas. (This is important in view of the fact that approximately 75% of Nova Scotia's land area is privately owned.) The province is also committed to expanding its partnerships with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to encourage stewardship and acquisition of additional critical lands for protection.

In accordance with the plan, government intends to continue working with municipalities and industry to research and develop municipal land controls and best management practices to protect water supply areas; promote pollution prevention approaches with all stakeholders; and encourage product stewardship within the paint, tire, telecommunications and dairy industries, as well as pursuing stewardship agreements with other sectors such as electronics.

Air quality commitments in the plan call for expanding the province's ambient air monitoring program to improve air quality information and its distribution to residents, as well as developing airshed management plans and working with large industrial facilities to monitor transport and deposition from major sources. The government will also participate in national and international initiatives for addressing transboundary air issues.

Building on the drinking water strategy released in 2002, the government's plan includes commitments to: develop a framework for protection of water sources and aquatic habitat; expand and upgrade the ambient water monitoring system; work with municipal partners to address wastewater issues; and to provide funding for municipal water and wastewater infrastructure programs and for land use planning in water supply areas.

The plan also builds on Nova Scotia's economic growth strategy, introduced in 2000, acknowledging the link between economic prosperity and a healthy environment. Priorities and future directions in this area will include: promoting innovation and trade within the environmental industries sector and modeling cost-effective solutions to environmental challenges; establishing a Code of Forest Practice to encourage sustainable forest management practices; producing a first State of the Forests report to provide information on the condition of Nova Scotia's forests; and creating a regulatory climate that encourages the development of a renewable energy industry in the province.

Other components of the plan reinforce the government's commitment to advance initiatives and collaboration in the areas of agricultural sustainability, climate change, natural resource management and control of hazardous substances.

Finally, the document outlines an overall framework for environmental management. A strengthened government-wide policy will be developed to better integrate environmental considerations into programs and practices as well as other policies. It will support continuous improvement in addressing environmental issues and will establish a process for co-ordinated reporting across government on environmental commitments and results achieved. Other elements of the framework include leading by example (e.g. purchasing green power and adopting environmentally responsible procurement standards) and renewing legislation to meet current needs. The document says the government will introduce amendments designed to strengthen the Environment Act and expand the range of environmental management and compliance tools available.

The plan may be viewed on the Environment and Labour Web site at www.gov.ns.ca/enla (click on What's New).

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