Common Questions – HalifACT: Acting on Climate Together

Last updated: April 12, 2022

What is HalifACT?

HalifACT: Acting on Climate Together is the municipality’s long-term climate action plan to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and safeguard communities as we transition to a clean, low-carbon, economy with opportunities for all. The plan was unanimously adopted by Regional Council on June 23, 2020. View the staff report and presentation.

The HalifACT plan targets net-zero municipal operations by 2030, as well as a community-wide reduction of emissions of 75 per cent by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Net-zero emissions means either emitting no greenhouse gas emissions, or offsetting emissions. These targets address the climate emergency declaration put forward by Regional Council in January 2019, and also align with the 1.5°C pathway recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The plan aims to enhance the resiliency of people, infrastructure, and environment against the impacts of a changing climate. Coastal communities in Atlantic Canada are expected to have the highest adaptation costs in the country; as a municipality with over 2,000 kilometres of coastline, adapting our coastal communities and infrastructure to climate change is paramount. 

Adaptation actions in HalifACT enable us to prepare for hazards such as coastal, inland and overland flooding, drought, erosion and prolonged extreme heat during the summer months. 

A net-zero and climate resilient municipality means changing how we use energy, move people and goods, as well as how we build and protect our communities. This includes a shift to electric vehicles, supported communities and infrastructure that can rebound better and faster from climatic events such as hurricanes and flooding, and buildings that are net-zero and more climate resilient. 

Read the plan at halifax.ca/climate.

Why is it important to invest in climate initiatives now?

The municipality’s declaration of a climate emergency in January 2019 underscores the urgency of taking action to reduce emissions and prepare the municipality for climate change impacts. 

The 46 actions defined in HalifACT will take time to implement and realize. If we delay making these investments, the economic, social and environmental cost of inaction will continue to grow substantially. 

In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Assessment Report 6 (AR6), replacing the previous report published in 2013. Referred to as a “code red for humanity,” the AR6 report is the most comprehensive assessment of climate change to date, outlining the latest findings from leading scientists around the world. The findings are clearer and more critical than ever – human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.

HalifACT’s proposed actions and timelines are ambitious and unprecedented, and come with the need for immediate action. While it may be a 30-year plan, most actions need to be undertaken within the first 10 years to meet targets. If we don’t speed up action and remain in a “business as usual” mode, the municipality’s carbon budget will be exceeded by 2028.

In Canada, the current economic impacts of the climate emergency average $5 billion per year. By 2050, these impacts are estimated to reach between $21 and $43 billion per year. Municipalities across the country own 60 per cent of public infrastructure in Canada, therefore, municipalities have a significant role to play in investing in solutions to protect Canadians from current and future climate impacts. 

For more information on funding, see the three-year resource plan within the HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report.

How much will it cost to deliver the HalifACT plan and how much will it save residents?

The HalifACT plan positions the municipality as a leader in climate action, and its implementation requires a significant financial contribution from all levels of government, private investments, as well as the community. 

Both public and private investments will be required to reduce the municipality’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net-zero targets, with a cost estimate of $22 billion over the next 30 years. 

Although a significant upfront investment is needed, businesses, residents and governments will see a net benefit of approximately $21.9 billion in avoided energy costs, operations, maintenance, carbon pricing, and increased revenues from energy generation. By 2030, these savings will begin to offset investments.

Though the upfront investment in HalifACT is substantial, the long-term financial return and avoided costs are much greater. These benefits increase when factoring in environmental and social benefits, such as healthier, more equitable and vibrant communities, which may not be captured through strict financial analysis. 

As recommended by the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, best practice for public and private investment in climate change adaptation measures falls between 0.6 per cent to 1.25 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). This means that ideally, the collective investments in the municipality, from both government and corporate organizations should be between $115 and $240 million annually for adaptation. 

Avoided costs of preparing for climate hazards cannot be underestimated – research shows that every $1 invested in climate change adaptation saves $6 in future climate impact costs – not to mention the protection of communities, cultural heritage, and human life. By investing $240 million in adaptation measures in one year, the region could avoid $1.44 billion in future costs associated with climate impacts.

What are the savings and benefits of delivering the HalifACT plan?

Responding to the climate emergency will result in benefits, both financial and beyond, by creating safe, connected, vibrant and healthy communities. The implementation of the HalifACT actions will have significant financial benefits through returns on investment and avoided costs to the municipality and residents.

Implementing the HalifACT plan and transitioning to a low carbon economy will lead to substantial cost savings for residents and the municipality through returns on investment and avoided future costs.

Residents will benefit from upfront investments, such as deep retrofits to existing homes and buildings, which will lower energy needs by over 50 per cent and increase resiliency to climate impacts. Additionally, residents will benefit from investments in clean energy production and sustainable modes of transportation. 

Building new, net-zero and climate resilient municipal buildings will reduce the cost of operating and maintaining buildings, as well as avoid costly repairs needed when buildings are damaged by flooding or other climate impacts, ultimately lowering the municipality’s costs of delivering services. 

Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions can improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, provide space for recreation, physical activity and social interaction. Adapting to the changing climate will strengthen emergency preparedness and infrastructure resilience, while also enhancing natural habitats and biodiversity.

In addition, HalifACT will create employment opportunities and stimulate new and existing businesses. In particular, major investments in resilient and decarbonized infrastructure will lead to career opportunities in the building construction and retrofit, transportation and renewable energy sectors. 

For more information, read the plan at halifax.ca/climate.

What progress has been made on the HalifACT plan?

The first HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report stressed that increased efforts will be required by the municipality and by others to achieve the HalifACT plan goals. At the time of reporting, work on 30 of 46 HalifACT actions had begun, however, only five were reported to be on track and adequately resourced. At the current pace, the municipality’s carbon budget, which is modelled to align with maintaining global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, will be exceeded by 2028. 

The second HalifACT annual progress report, detailing the period of 2021 to 2022, will be released later in 2022. 

The latest details on the status of HalifACT actions can be found in the HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report and are summarized in the HalifACT Shared Accountability Reference Document.

What HalifACT plan initiatives were funded from 2021 to 2022?

From 2021 to 2022, some of the HalifACT capital spending focused on the following projects: 

  • Development of a new large-scale Community Retrofit, Renewables and Resilience Program to provide deep energy retrofits to residential and commercial buildings; 
  • Started the implementation of the new Municipal Electric Vehicle Strategy, including planning for public charging infrastructure;
  • Installation of energy retrofit and solar panels for municipal buildings, including a deep energy retrofit at the Dartmouth North Community Centre that included upgrades to the building envelope, electric heat pumps and a 75-kilowatt solar installation;
  • Update of sea level rise values for the municipality, using the latest scientific projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
  • Installation of a rain garden as part of Spring Garden Road and Prince Albert Road, as part of a naturalized stormwater management project;
  • Purchase of a refrigerated truck to preserve food during extended power outages to help vulnerable communities; and, 
  • Support for various small initiatives, including a new electric ice resurfacer for the Sackville Sport Stadium, electric bikes for parking enforcement, and the planting of over 3000 trees through the Urban Forest Master Plan. 
What HalifACT initiatives will be funded next year (2022 to 2023)?

From 2022 to 2023, HalifACT funding will support several prioritized and critical action areas, including initiatives for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings, electric vehicles, assessing and protecting critical infrastructure, and updating flood mapping.

For further information on priority areas, see the 2022/23 Draft Capital Plan, 2022/23 proposed business unit business plans, Action Plan for Years 3-5 (2018-2021) of the Halifax Economic Growth Plan and 10 Year Capital Plan.

Some specific initiatives for 2022 to 2023 include:

  • Launching the Resilience, Retrofits and Renewables Deep Energy Retrofit Program to conduct deep energy retrofits on 5,000 residential and commercial buildings;
  • Implementing the approved Municipal Electric Vehicle Strategy, which will enable the transition of the municipal fleet to electric vehicles and encourage electric vehicle ownership for residents;
  • Purchasing electric buses and retrofitting the Ragged Lake Transit Centre to support Transforming Transit;
  • Creating comprehensive coastal and overland flooding hazard maps for all of the municipality, that will be made available to the public;
  • The second phase of the development of a municipal natural asset inventory;
  • Leveraging federal funds to increase the resilience of critical infrastructure (such as transportation, power, facilities, etc.), to current and future climate change impacts, such as extreme weather events;
  • Conducting net-zero deep energy retrofits on municipal buildings as part of the ongoing effort to meet the goal of net-zero municipal operations by 2030; and, 
  • Continuing to support communities in preparing for climate events, including expanding on the storm kits for the newcomers pilot project and increasing awareness of climate impacts.

Further details on the planned projects for 2022 to 2023 are included in the Corporate and Customer Services 2022-23 Business Plan and the HalifACT three-year Resource Plan for 2022-205, attached as Appendix B to the HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report.

How much taxpayer money is the municipality saving residents through the implementation of HalifACT initiatives?

Every $1 of climate adaptation measures spent in preparation is estimated to save $6 in future impact costs. The estimated $22 billion investment on emissions reduction measures is expected to yield $41.9 billion in avoided energy-related costs. 

For more information and details on funding, see the HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report

What other municipal initiatives are related to climate action and HalifACT?

HalifACT is interrelated with numerous other municipal plans and initiatives. Some examples include:

How was HalifACT developed and who has been involved?

HalifACT was developed through a collaborative process with municipal staff, members of the municipality’s climate action community, technical modelling and analysis, and broad-based public engagement. 

Stakeholder Engagement
As the success of HalifACT relies heavily on community action, stakeholder engagement and public consultation is important for evaluating the complex issue of climate change and in finding solutions. The HalifACT team held meetings in 2019 with over 250 internal and external stakeholders, including all levels of government, utilities, non-profits and advocacy groups, academic institutions, educators, industry, Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities, Acadian groups, youth and more.

Technical Modelling
To assist in the development of HalifACT, the municipality contracted Sustainable Solutions Group (SSG), an environmental consulting company specializing in climate change mitigation and adaptation modelling. Through their work, SSG developed a 2016 baseline GHG inventory, a low carbon scenario, an actions catalogue, and an adaptation report. 

Public Engagement
Public engagement focused on raising awareness on climate change, the actions required, and the collective action needed for success. A communications strategy was created, and continues to evolve, and includes a social media campaign, online engagement tools (surveys), resources and engagement events. The HalifACT project team also conducted more than 35 informal “pop-up” events throughout the municipality during the summer and fall of 2019. 

What role does the municipality have in HalifACT?

The municipality has taken a leadership role by creating the HalifACT plan. Targets and actions will require shared implementation across many organizations in the community and by residents. The municipality maintains a network of stakeholders that work in the climate space with over 100 organizations ranging from government and businesses to academic institutions, NGOs and community organizations.

The HalifACT plan will also be used to inform other official municipal plans and policies, including updates to the Regional Plan. The municipality is now working with community stakeholders (including all levels of government, utilities, non-profits and advocacy groups, academic institutions, educators, industry, Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities, Acadian groups, youth and more). 

What role do residents have in HalifACT?

HalifACT is a plan to help every community, and every individual in the municipality, take appropriate action to respond to climate change. It is about preventing loss, cutting emissions, saving money, and strengthening communities. 

HalifACT is meant to be a collaborative process that encompasses municipal government and community-based efforts. The HalifACT plan encourages every individual to be aware of, and respond to, climate change however they can. Only by acting together can the targets outlined in the HalifACT plan be achieved.  

Residents are invited to join the HalifACT movement, and are invited to visit the Taking Action web page.

What is the proposed Climate Action Tax?

As outlined in the approved 2022/23 Budget, the Climate Action Tax will be used to implement the strategic initiatives of HalifACT. The tax will also be used to leverage climate action funding from the private sector, federal and provincial governments, providing the necessary investment for the success of HalifACT in the years to come.

Funds from the Climate Action Tax will directly support HalifACT, which includes projects such as electric vehicles and buses, net-zero buildings and projects to improve the resiliency of communities and infrastructure. 

It is anticipated that the Climate Action Tax will remain in place for at least the next 10 years, with the associated rate determined annually.

What HalifACT strategic initiatives will the Climate Action Tax fund?

Over the next three years, Climate Action Tax funds would be used for the following transformational initiatives, which are necessary for both the short and long-term success of HalifACT:

•    Leveraging federal funds to purchase electric buses and retrofit the Ragged Lake Transit Centre;
•    Implementing the approved Municipal Electric Vehicle Strategy, which will enable the transition of the municipal fleet, as well as access and uptake of electric vehicle ownership for residents;
•    Leveraging federal funds to increase the resilience of critical infrastructure, such as transportation, power, facilities, etc., to current and future climate change impacts, such as extreme weather events;
•    Energy retrofits of municipal corporate buildings; and,  
•    Continuing to support community-led initiatives that are critical to climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience of the Halifax Region. 

Would the Climate Action Tax be used to leverage other funding?

The Climate Action Tax will be used to leverage climate action funding from the private sector, federal and provincial governments, which will help provide the necessary investment for the success of HalifACT in the years to come. 

How will the public know where revenue raised by the Climate Action Tax is spent? 

Staff recognize that it is imperative to transparently communicate the investment required for HalifACT, along with the savings and co-benefits of implementing this plan on time and at scale. 

Staff are required to provide an annual progress report for all actions under HalifACT; this includes transparently reporting funding sources and investment in each action area. View the HalifACT – Acting on Climate Together: 2020-2021 Annual Report here.

Where can I find more information about the proposed Climate Action Tax? 

On February 2, 2022 Budget Committee requested a staff briefing note on the rationale behind separating out the HalifACT budget line within tax notices, including risks or benefits to this approach. 

Staff have outlined an overview of the risks and benefits of this issue, for deliberation of Regional Council. View page 37 of the 2022/23 Budget Adjustment List for Consideration for more information.