Sask. leads Canada in greenhouse gas emissions per capita. What's being done about it?
Province may not comply with Canada’s plan to slash emissions, ministers say
Environmental groups are calling the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment's latest budget "not enough," "utterly inadequate" and "deeply disappointing" when it comes to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
The ministry's proposed budget for 2022-23 says it will spend $92.6 million, which includes $1 million for continued delivery on Saskatchewan's climate change strategy and $400,000 to accelerate growth in the forestry sector.
"There's very little in this provincial budget that makes Saskatchewan's climate action plan more ambitious," said Peter Prebble, a board member of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.
Mark Bigland-Pritchard, spokesperson for Climate Justice Saskatoon, said, "I'm not surprised. But inevitably, it's not enough. It's totally inadequate."
Environmental groups say it's time for Saskatchewan to get serious about fighting climate change which scientists say has contributed to deadly heat waves, drought, wildfires and extreme weather events including torrential rain storms.
Saskatchewan leads the country in greenhouse gas emissions per capita, according to data from the most recent National Inventory Report published in April 2021 by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The province's greenhouse gas emissions decreased by one megatonne from 2018 to 2019, but they've remained at relatively similar levels from 2014 to 2019, the latest data available.
A 2022 report, which will include data from 2020, will be published later this month.
The provincial government released Prairie Resilience, a "made-in-Saskatchewan" climate change strategy in 2017, with more than 40 commitments to address climate change.
The government has targets for reducing greenhouse gas emission in some specific sectors of the Saskatchewan economy, but doesn't have a provincial goal for 2030.
"Given the fact that it is total provincewide greenhouse gas emissions that matter most in terms of Saskatchewan's impact on the global climate, the lack of an official 2030 emission reduction goal for Saskatchewan is of concern," Prebble said.
Saskatchewan's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Bronwyn Eyre and Environment Minister Warren Kaeding refused to commit to a total emission reduction target in recent interviews with CBC News.
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society would like to see the provincial government aim for a 45 per cent reduction in annual province-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Canada's ambitious 2030 reduction targets
The federal government released a plan on Tuesday to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next eight years to meet ambitious 2030 reduction targets.
In an effort to slash emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, Ottawa has announced some $9.1 billion in new investments that will, among other things, boost incentives for zero-emission vehicles, sweeten tax breaks for companies in the fossil fuels sector that embrace carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology — which Saskatchewan has embraced — and work to make Canada's electricity grid cleaner.
All efforts are to stop the planet from warming to a point of crisis.
However Kaeding said the new investments "wouldn't even come close to the cost that the federal government is going to be imposing on Saskatchewan families or small businesses or industries."
The plan states that the current carbon pricing regime will remain the cornerstone of the federal climate plan. The carbon price is set to rise steeply from its current level of $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions to $170 by 2030 to push consumers toward cleaner energy sources.
Canada is also pledging to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by at least 75 per cent below 2012 levels by 2030.
In addition, the federal government will soon implement a hard cap on emissions — meaning that if companies want to pump out more fossil fuels in the coming decades, they'll have to do so with significantly lower emissions intensity.
Sask. won't cooperate without seeing data, ministers say
Eyre and Kaeding said Saskatchewan won't comply with Ottawa's plan to curb emissions or set more ambitious targets for the province, without seeing the data the federal government used to make decisions about caps on greenhouse gases.
"The biggest frustration we have in terms of the federal plans is the data sharing," Eyre said.
"They are using data about Saskatchewan that they don't show us … what they're imposing on us based on data collected in Ottawa about oil and gas sites they've never visited."
Eyre and Kaeding said there wasn't any "meaningful" consultation between the provincial government and federal officials, besides a short phone call.
"We certainly need to see and have an opportunity to see the homework that the federal government is trying to put these numbers forward on," Kaeding said.
Eyre said she recently raised the issue of "non-transparency around data" with federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
Wilkinson's office and the ministry of environment and climate change did not respond to CBC's request for comment by publication time.
More climate action needed
Bigland-Pritchard said the province's climate plan focuses a lot on adapting to climate change, "but when it comes to actually reducing our emissions, which is what we need … it's utterly inadequate."
He and Prebble want to see a comprehensive plan to get to zero emissions, along with money for a home energy retrofit program, a major program to retrofit commercial buildings in Saskatchewan, major initiatives in the transport sector that would promote the purchase of zero-emission vehicles and investments to enhance urban transportation.
"We need to basically be ready to run our transportation system in this province on non-fossil fuel vehicles. And we should be preparing our infrastructure for that," Prebble said.
Prebble added the government should phase out all Saskatchewan's conventional coal-fired power stations by 2030 and replace them with 1,000 megawatts of imported hydro from Manitoba, implement new electricity efficiency measures and promote a much larger rollout of wind and solar power combined with energy storage.
"There's no evidence that the Saskatchewan government plans to cooperate with the federal government on these kinds of initiatives," he said.
Moves taken by the Saskatchewan goverment include the 2019 release of the Methane Action Plan (MAP) with a goal of reducing methane emissions from venting and flaring activities in the upstream oil and gas industry by 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually by 2025. Total MAP emissions reductions between 2020-2030 will be at least 38.2 million tonnes CO2e, according to the government.
The provincial oil and gas sector has reduced methane emissions by almost 50 per cent since 2015, according to a December 2021 government report.
In the electricity generation sector, SaskPower has pledged to reduce its emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and the government also committed to sourcing up to 50 per cent of electricity from renewable energy, including wind and solar.
It also plans to bring emissions from government buildings down to 85,489 tonnes per year and a 10 per cent reduction in emissions intensity from large industrial emitters by 2030.
Saskatchewan doesn't have targets for the agriculture or transportation sectors, though they're among the highest emitting industries.
Almost two-thirds of agriculture emissions come from the prairies, with more than half of the sector's emissions coming from Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
There are also no sector-specific reduction targets for the residential and commercial buildings sector and Saskatchewan's municipal sector.
"Emission reduction targets for each of these sectors are badly needed," Prebble said.
With files from John Paul Tasker
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