Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy. Part 1 An Overview of a Token Gesture Under the Guise of a Climate Action Plan

The Government of Saskatchewan’s White Paper on Climate Change begins with an acknowledgement of the reality of man-made climate change and the need to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases. In 2015, emissions from the province of Saskatchewan totaled 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents which equates to 10% of the Canadian total. The intensity of emissions from Saskatchewan is extreme, and on a per capita basis, is 3 fold greater than the national average.

Under the Paris Agreement, Canada has committed to achieve a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by the year 2030 relative to emissions on record for the year 2005. In contrast, the government of Saskatchewan has put forth a position that a focus on the intensity of provincial emissions is misplaced and that specific targets to curtail emissions are not needed.

By 2030 the government plans to increase grid penetrations by renewables (hydro, wind, solar and geothermal) from 25 to 50% of the total production capacity. This initiative should be acknowledged; however, given the rate of emissions from other sectors of the economy, the net effect of this initiative will be marginal.

The most significant emissions abatement opportunity for Saskatchewan resides in the oil and gas sector. In 2016, Canada, the US and Mexico agreed to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% by the year 2025. In Canada, specific federal regulations to monitor and minimize leakage and venting of methane will be phased in between 2020 and 2023. The provincial Climate Change Strategy does not clearly commit to achieving federal targets to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Outside of policies directed toward electricity production and possibly the oil and gas sector, the Climate Change Strategy of the Government of Saskatchewan is largely devoid of substance. All that remains in the document is a laundry list of often vague statements of intent that are provided without targets to curtail emissions within economic sectors.

Using the government’s own projections, relative to a year 2005 baseline, annual provincial emissions would increase by 12.5 million tonnes by the year 2030 under a business as usual scenario. Assuming a 45% cut in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and a 50% penetration of power supply by renewables, provincial emissions would be cut by 11 million tonnes. As such, implementation of Saskatchewan’s limited climate action plan would result in zero change in emissions by the year 2030. If carbon sinks (carbon withdrawal from the atmosphere through agricultural soils and forestry) are included in the calculation of baseline emissions and year 2030 projections, net provincial greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 9%.

In reality, the Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy does not contain specific targets to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions because these projections would highlight the lack of ambition within the plan. The policies put forward by the government to curtail emissions are grossly inadequate and inconsistent with regional obligations to combat climate change. An indefinite continuation of the extreme intensity of emissions from Saskatchewan will undermine Canada’s efforts to achieve a minimum of a 30% reduction in emissions by the year 2030 as specified under the Paris Agreement.

Dave Maenz

Author – The Price of Carbon

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