Islanders with an eye on future generations are pushing PEI candidates for climate change action IG News

Irshadgul News report,

Regardless of which party forms PEI’s next provincial government after April 3, climate-change watchers and land-use reform advocates say policymakers must now act to protect the island’s forests, waterways and shorelines. is required.

Prince Edward Island’s topography, geology, and position in the Gulf of St. Lawrence make it particularly vulnerable to a changing climate, including rising tides, sea level rise, and more frequent and extreme weather events such as snow storms, hurricanes, and heatwaves. waves are included.

Climate change threatens the island’s unique ecosystem as well as its primary industries – tourism, agriculture and fisheries.

Hannah Gehrels is an ecologist and co-ordinator of PEI’s Wild Child Program, which educates children about nature. And that work increasingly includes talking to kids about climate change.

“Anybody who’s had kids in their life struggled with this in the fall [post-tropical storm] Fiona came and we saw such destruction in our forests and in the natural environment on the island,” Gehrels said.

“When I think about climate change, I think about future generations and what responsibility we have. … Children need to trust the adults in their lives to think about these issues. ”

Three children in snow gear play on an outdoor swing in the snow
The Wild Child program educates children about nature, and that work means talking about climate change and extreme weather like Tropical Storm Fiona. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Gehrels said this is an issue with which everyone needs to get on board — especially policymakers.

He said, “We really need to think and live in hope… hope that is created by actions and not just words.”

“As adults in this situation, this is our role, this is our responsibility and this is what we need to do. This is what we are asking our leaders and MPs to do as well.”

They want to see legislation on the island to protect species at risk, and the implementation of an environmental bill of rights.

Here the parties are pledging

While all four major political parties address climate change, land use and environmental protection in their platforms, the issue has not generated the same amount of promises as health care and the rising cost of living on PEI.

Here are some of the party’s promises.

the green party The platform promises to bring about island-wide land-use planning with a strong focus on making communities more sustainable by reducing emissions, protecting shorelines and forests, and moving development away from areas prone to erosion or flooding. The platform is also committed to making land procurement more transparent and ensuring proper implementation of the Land Conservation Act. Also, it promises to freeze shoreline development until new shoreline protection laws are enacted.

NDP Pledged to triple PEI’s energy efficiency targets and implement a fiscally neutral carbon tax. The NDP says it will establish a Green Jobs Task Force and launch an energy retrofit program targeting three percent of the island’s buildings each year, with the goal of cutting emissions and creating new jobs. The plan will also include a step code to move buildings to net zero by 2032.

progressive conservative Says they will work with UPEI’s School of Climate Change and Adaptation to create a 25-year coastal management plan and enhance setback requirements around the shoreline and other sensitive areas. The party has also committed to creating a land-use plan for development and conservation, increasing nursery tree production by 30 percent, and continuing to invest in Fiona’s cleanup efforts. The PC has also committed to expanding access to the province’s electric vehicle charging network, particularly in rural areas.

liberal Party has promised to expand the buffer zone program and double payments to farmers who take environmentally sensitive land out of production, as well as implementing an agricultural renewable-energy program. The party would also commit to establishing a permanent and independent Land Use Commission with indigenous and geographic representation, which would report to the legislature. The party also promises to encourage the development of community-owned wind farms, with the goal of achieving wind generation for 50 percent of the islanders’ electricity needs.

protect beaches and waterways

Charlotte Large, program manager with the PEI Watershed Alliance, spends a lot of time walking the island’s beaches — an area she said is bearing the brunt of climate change damage.

“This is an issue that cannot be ignored, as it affects every part of our lives in many ways,” she said.

Watershed groups like hers are concerned about rising sea levels and the impact of more frequent and severe storms like Fiona.

A short haired woman standing outside with a waterway in the background
PEI Watershed Alliance program manager Charlotte Large says climate change can’t be ignored. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

“I think all the watershed groups across the island – especially on the north coast where we have such intense wave action – it’s going to have so much impact not only on the beach, say, people’s property, but also our salt marshes. and estuaries and the mouths of many of our major waterways.”

He said watershed groups are watching as salt water encroaches on other inland ecosystems and changes those environments.

“People are very aware that our coasts are moving,” she said. “How are we going to adapt, not just the infrastructure we’ve built, but also how we’re managing things?”

Call for Land Use Plans

One way to ensure this, Large said, is through land use plans.

“PEI is a very developed province. We are very unique in this way in Canada, being very small and having the largest population density in Canada,” she said.

“So how we use our land and how it’s developed for many different industries really affects our waterways and our environment.”

Drone view of a giant rock breakwater surrounding a new home on a red sand shoreline.
A large rock breakwater is being built at the edge of a property at Point Deroche on Prince Edward Island’s North Shore galvanized supporters of a stricter land-use plan in 2022. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Land-use planning was also a focus during the leaders’ debate organized by PEI’s Environmental Coalition last week. Several people in the crowd pointed to a new development along the shoreline at Pointe Deroche, asking how that work had been allowed to proceed and why members of the community had not responded to orders to stop the work.

The province told the PEI Legislature last fall that the project followed all provincial development and buffer zone regulations. Earlier this year, the province implemented a shoreline protection order to limit shoreline development until a formal policy is formulated.

Large said watershed groups would like to see more regulation about what types of development are allowed — and where — to help prevent shoreline erosion and contamination of waterways.

An overhead shot showing devastation on a red sand beach
Post-Tropical Storm Fiona forever changed vast areas of the PEI National Park shoreline. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

He added that effective land-use planning will help ensure future homes, businesses and infrastructure are located in the right places and in a way that is adapted to our changing climate.

“Not only to protect, but to enhance our ability to adapt to the future to come,” she said.

Afforestation and Biodiversity

That looming future is also threatening the island’s forests, a reality that Tropical Storm Fiona has brought into sharp focus. But PEI forests were in decline long before Fiona.

The province issues a report on the health of island forests every decade. PEI’s 2020 State of the Forests report won’t be released until later this year, but the province said a preliminary analysis showed the amount of forested land in the province had fallen 20 percent since 1990, with most The decline occurred between 2010 and 2010. 2020.

The idea that we’re going to grow forests like we grow corn or potatoes has never made sense here.– Gary Schneider, McPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project

Gary Schneider, founder of the MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, has spent the past three decades trying to reverse such declines. He is also a member of the newly established Forestry Commission, which was formed earlier this year with the aim of providing forestry policy recommendations to the province.

“I think all planting should be done through a lens of climate change and, you know, are we planting things that are going to do well over the next 30, 40 to 100 years?” They said.

A man standing outside wearing glasses and looking at the camera
Gary Schneider with the MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project says the province needs to learn from the past and increase the biodiversity on the island. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

He said the province needs to learn from what it hasn’t done in the past in order to effectively look to the future.

“We really need to get forests back – not plantations, not like tree farms – but real forests that have some real health to them. That means diverse forests, a mix of hardwood and softwood trees , lots of shrubs, lots of other wildlife,” he said.

Shallow-rooted trees were hardest hit during Fiona, he said, including entire plantations of white spruce and red cedar. He said the province needs to focus on increasing biodiversity and including as many of the 26 native species of trees on PEI as possible.

The giant tree's root system is torn from the red dirt ground.
The loss of so many shallow-rooted trees during post-tropical storm Fiona would change the look of the island’s forests for decades to come. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

The boost in diversity in plants and animals in forested areas means those forests will be more resilient to climate change.

“The idea that we’re going to grow forests the same way we grow corn or potatoes never made sense,” Schneider said.

“It’s not a six-month crop. It’s something that provides incredible habitat for a bunch of different things and can create value and store carbon and clean the air.”

fear for generations to come

No matter who forms the next provincial government, advocates say climate action must happen fast.

Mi’kmaw elder Mathilda Knockwood-Snatch lives in Lennox Island and has seen the effects of climate change reverberate through her community. She is also an elder of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.

She says that post-tropical storms Dorian and Fiona have done more than downed trees in PEI. Powerful weather systems have also caused significant damage to the sand dunes around Lennox Island in places such as Hog Island to the north.

a woman standing outside looking at the camera
Mi’kmaq Elder Mathilda Knockwood-Snatch says she and other elders have been warning about the dangers of climate change for years. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Knockwood-Snatch said, “These are the kinds of things that protect our little island. What’s happening is that our little island is shrinking. Even PEI is shrinking every year.”

Many residents of Lennox Island live along the shoreline, where the community also has much of its infrastructure.

“It definitely scares me for the future generation,” she said. “Even in my past I have never seen such devastation. I fear for the children to come.

We need to start acting and doing things. This is what I have to say about climate change: do it now, don’t wait until tomorrow.– Mathilda Knockwood-Snatch

“We have to act and start doing things. This is what I say about climate change: Do it now, don’t wait until tomorrow.”

He said community elders have been warning about the dangers of climate change for years, and it is time for everyone to come together to find a way forward – a way that includes indigenous communities, fishermen and other people. Including inputs from those affected by climate change every day.

“I think they should stop fighting and start working together.”