Sask. greenhouse gas emissions under fire

An environmental group says Saskatchewan is now one of the worst jurisdictions in the world when it comes to greenhouses gases, and the problem is getting worse.

An environmental group says Saskatchewan is now one of the worst jurisdictions in the world when it comes to greenhouses gases, and the problem is getting worse.

About 74 tonnes of emissions per capita are pumped into the air each year, contributing to global warming and climate change, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society said.

That works out to about 74 million tonnes of greenhouse gases for the province — most of it carbon dioxide.

Environmental Society president Bert Weichel said that's unacceptable, calling for an action plan to cut levels by 40 per cent by 2020.

"What we're looking for here is leadership on the part of the Saskatchewan government," Weichel said.

He added the government has proposed some good ideas — including expanding wind power by 200 megawatts and regulating emitters who exceed 50,000 tonnes of emissions at a single facility — but has to go a lot further to make a serious dent in CO2 numbers.

Finger pointing continues

The debate over greenhouse gases has been a highly political one in province, with the NDP opposition and the Saskatchewan Party government pointing fingers at each other over the lack of progress.

The Sask. Party promised during the 2007 election campaign to stabilize emissions by 2010, and reduce them 32 per cent by the year 2020.

After forming government, the party backed off that promise, instead pledging it would reduce greenhouse gas levels 20 per cent by 2020.

The NDP's environment critic, Sandra Morin, was accusing the government this week of failing to follow through with even its scaled-down promises.

"Every few months it seems they have a new set of targets, but they won't make any of these targets legally binding," Morin said. "Their so-called management and reduction of greenhouse gases act still doesn't contain targets of any kind."

But Environment Minister Nancy Heppner said if the Opposition is sincere, it should work with the government to pass the proposed legislation.

"We are working to get our legislation through the house," Heppner said. "It is currently held up. But once that is passed, SaskPower will be regulated; there are changes that'll have to be made. And one of the options that we're looking at obviously is carbon capture and storage."

Carbon capture involves siphoning CO2 away from coal-fired power plants and storing it underground.

However, the Environmental Society says carbon capture is an expensive solution that will cut only "a tiny fraction" of emissions. A proposed carbon capture project at the Boundary Dam Power Station in the southeastern part of the province would only save 1 million tonnes, Weichel said.

Energy efficient suggestions

Instead, the Society says it's time to phase out coal power, replacing it with wind power, and cogeneration — in which waste heat from industry is used to generate electricity.

"Fossil fuels and carbon-based energy sources aren't going to sustain us in the long run so it's a journey we need to make sooner or later," Weichel said.

Lower the speed limits, sending more goods by train and retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient are other measures that could make an impact.

"We can design programs that pay for themselves solely out of the energy savings," said Peter Prebble, a former NDP MLA who is now the Environmental Society's director of energy and water policy.

"There will be no net cost to society and there will be all kinds of jobs created," Prebble added.

Heppner said it's too early to say whether she supports these measures.