Sask. falling short on fighting climate change: report

In a cross-country report on government response to climate change, Saskatchewan has been called out for falling short in several areas, including not having an emissions target for 2020.

At the time of the cross-country report, Saskatchewan did not have an emissions target for 2020

Pumpjacks at work pumping crude oil near Halkirk, Alta. Of the 12 provinces and territories that were part of a new cross-Canada report on response to climate change, seven — including Saskatchewan — do not have a target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan has been called out for falling short in several areas when it comes to fighting climate change.

That's according to a cross-country report from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada on government response to climate change, which was released Tuesday and prepared jointly by federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand and auditors general from nine provinces.

The general consensus of the report is that there is no consistent method between provinces to measure and report on greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it difficult for Canada to report on its pledge to reduce emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Deficiencies in strategy

Of the 12 provinces and territories that were part of the report, seven — including Saskatchewan — did not have a target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

The plans of eight provinces and territories did not include details such as timelines, detailed implementation plans, and cost estimates, the report said.

Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, however, did not have a strategy, according to the report.

Saskatchewan's government is still refusing to sign the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, intended to provide a national plan to meet Canada's 2030 emission reduction target.

On Tuesday Dustin Duncan said he saw the findings as a positive.

"When you look at the projections going out to 2030, Saskatchewan, I think, is projected to have the second [highest] greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to the other provinces without a carbon tax," said Duncan. 

Duncan said the province's climate change plan will be in place by January 2019. He said target details will be released in the coming months.

"Saskatchewan is a pretty small piece of the global pie and climate will continue so we need to be resilient to those changes," he said. "The plan by the province of Saskatchewan goes so much further than where the federal government is at on this."

At the time of the report, the province's Ministry of Environment also had not completed an assessment related to climate change risks, as it was in the process of gathering information from other government agencies.

The report did acknowledge, though, that Saskatchewan was developing policies related to cutting emissions "using the direction set in the government's October 2016 Climate Change White Paper."

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson said the province is in a better position since releasing details of their made-in Saskatchewan climate plan. 

"I think if we would have had the climate change strategy at the point in time that we did the work, it would've come out a little bit differently," Ferguson said. 

Reporting on progress

Saskatchewan doesn't publish findings on its own emissions because the province relies on the numbers from the federal report.

Only six out of 12 provinces and territories are reporting regularly to the public on emissions.

Relative to the emission numbers in 1990, Saskatchewan's have increased by over 50 per cent.

A graph showing the provinces and their increases or decreases in greenhouse gas emissions relative to their emissions in 1990 through to 2015. The dotted lines are predictions. (Office of the Auditor General of Canada)

The economic sectors that were the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan were the oil and gas, agriculture and electricity sectors, according to the report.

With files from The Canadian Press