No carbon tax in Sask. government climate change plan

The province unveiled its climate change strategy on Monday and it does not include a carbon tax.

Federal minister says plan is "step toward pricing carbon"

Dustin Duncan says the province's climate change plan is "broader and bolder than a single policy such as a carbon tax." (CBC)

The province unveiled its climate change strategy on Monday and to no one's surprise it does not include a carbon tax.

For months, Premier Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party MLAs have been at odds with any federally implemented carbon tax.

All the candidates running to replace Wall have also expressed their opposition, even suggesting they will use the courts to fight Ottawa.

"This plan is broader and bolder than a single policy such as a carbon tax and will achieve better and more meaningful outcomes over the long term," said Minister of Environment Dustin Duncan.

The minister said this "third-way" plan is, in his opinion, better than a carbon tax or cap-and-trade and goes further than other jurisdictions.

"Our climate change strategy recognizes the investment and innovation that has taken place and sets out the road map for future actions. This is about protecting our people and communities as much as it is about working with industry and others to reduce emissions here in Saskatchewan," Duncan said.

Options for heavy emitters

The province will give large emitting facilities in oil, gas and mining "flexible compliance options."

The ministry says the output-based performance standards will be developed in consultation with industry throughout 2018 and will recognize actions already taken by industry to reduce emissions.

The options include:

  • Making improvements at facilities to reduce emissions intensity.
  • Purchasing a carbon offset, representing a reduction in GHG emissions.
  • Using best performance credits.
  • Utilizing a market mechanism outlined in the Paris Accord, such as an internationally transferred mitigation outcome.
  • Paying into a technology fund.

"This strategy will allow our industries to grow and continue providing these goods while staying competitive on the world stage."

"It will ensure Saskatchewan remains an attractive place to do business and reaffirms our commitment to reducing emissions and addressing climate change," Duncan said.

When asked if the flexible plan has elements of a carbon tax, Duncan said, "No, I will say this, we are not taxing people."

Following consultation, the government has set a date of Jan. 1, 2019 for its plan to take effect.

Duncan's federal counterpart weighs in

Federal Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna posted her reaction to Saskatchewan's plan on Facebook.

McKenna complimented Saskatchewan's new commitments, including making buildings more energy efficient.

"They've also taken a step toward pricing carbon. Saskatchewan's new plan proposes a performance standard for heavy industry that includes a carbon market," she wrote. "That's important. Momentum for carbon pricing is growing."

She went on to say the current proposal "wouldn't hit our standard, because it applies only to heavy industry instead of being economy-wide."
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna says Saskatchewan's proposal doesn't hit Ottawa's standard as it isn't "economy-wide." (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

McKenna said Ottawa will be assessing each province and territories plan against its own next year.

NDP says government is pricing carbon 

NDP opposition environment critic Cathy Sproule said the province has been dragging it's heels because reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn't easy but it needs to take responsibility. 

"I think I need a DeLorean because this is definitely Back to the Future," said Sproule. "This is just a re-hash of what they said in 2009 with a few new bells and whistles. It's not a plan, there are no targets in it."

Sproule, like McKenna said what the province proposes isn't a a carbon tax by definition but is a form of carbon pricing.

"They [heavy emitters] will either be doing it through an offset that's essentially a form of taxation. The technology fund is again another form of payment for excessive CO2 production."

SaskPower has committed to 50 per cent electricity capacity from renewable resources and reduce overall GHG emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. 

Saskatchewan's greenhouse gas emissions were 75 million tonnes in 2015, which was a reduction of 0.7 per cent from 2014, according to Canada's National Inventory Report 2017.

Saskatchewan represents 10 per cent of Canada's emissions, which are approximately two per cent of global emissions. 

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca