Many people and groups want NB Power and the provincial government to plan a nuclear-free renewable energy future in the province.
Almost two years ago, the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) was formed to advocate for that vision, and last year the Wolastoq Grand Council issued a resolution calling on the province to end nuclear development and shut down the existing Point Lepreau nuclear plant.
On the other hand, both NB Power and the government are tied to a nuclear vision of the future. Last week, NB Power presented its proposal to renew the Point Lepreau facility licence for another 25 years.
What are some alternative visions?
Today, the RAVEN project at the University of New Brunswick released a new report, The Future of Point Lepreau: Option B that considers climate justice, respecting Indigenous visions, and valuing the expertise of the environmental community. Option B is a response to the concurrent and interlinked energy, climate, social and economic equity crises we are all experiencing.
Last year, Indigenous Climate Action released its Decolonizing Climate Policy in Canada: Phase 1 Report analyzing Canada’s climate action plans. The report found that although the federal plans repeatedly mentioned Indigenous peoples and their rights, knowledge, and climate leadership, they were excluded from the plans’ development.
Additionally, Indigenous Climate Action researchers identified that policies and proposed actions contained within the federal climate plans are also problematic.
Both federal climate plans allow for continued fossil fuel production – a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions and a major contributor to Indigenous rights violations in Canada. Both plans also fail to address the inequalities continually reproduced through ongoing colonial relations and policies in Canada. The failure adds to negative impacts to Indigenous peoples and violations of Indigenous rights, perpetuating the causes of climate change.
The purpose of RAVEN’s Option B report is to spark discussion about a shared future for Point Lepreau that respects the Treaties of Peace and Friendship, aligns with the vision of the environmental community in New Brunswick, and is economically sound.
The RAVEN report promotes consideration of energy solutions aligned with climate justice, acknowledging that climate change has different social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on marginalized populations.
The central climate justice focus is to reshape climate action from technical efforts to cut emissions, into approaches that also address human rights and social inequality – climate solutions that benefit communities instead of corporations.
The report also underscores the legal and moral obligation to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the development of climate actions and cites examples of how Indigenous communities are disproportionally affected by the combination of changing climate and limiting government policy.
For example, the report highlights a National Resources Canada analysis of wildfire data dating back to the 1950s which found that about four million people – 12 per cent of the country’s total population – live near or within at-risk forest areas, but for First Nations people living on-reserve, 32.1 per cent were at risk of natural disasters driven by climate change.
Option B encourages developing plans that balance the different kinds of justice within the ecological limits of a finite planet and insists that the human desire for energy must respect the availability of the ecosystem’s energetic gifts, not demand sacrifice. The report recognizes that renewable energy can potentially transform society by redistributing wealth, health, and political power in ways that nuclear energy cannot.
With The Future of Point Lepreau: Option B report, the authors aim to foster dialogue about an alternate future to that proposed by NB Power, governments and the nuclear industry for the Point Lepreau site – a starting point for discussion regarding a holistic and contemporary approach for just climate action and economic recovery from COVID.
RAVEN is a member of the CRED-NB coalition that is encouraging all New Brunswickers to participate in the upcoming hearings for the Point Lepreau plant licence renewal. More information and resources are on the CRED-NB website.
Kim Reeder is a senior policy advisor for the RAVEN project at the University of New Brunswick and the lead author of the new RAVEN report.