Premier Moe defends 'I don't care' comments on per capita carbon emissions in Sask.

Premier Scott Moe is standing by comments he recently made dealing with criticism the Saskatchewan government has been facing over its environmental record.

Moe said emissions should be measured by consumption, not production

An image of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, wearing a blue suit with a red tie, speaking at a podium with a mic in a room with low lighting.
Premier Scott Moe is defending recent comments he made about Saskatchewan's environmental performance in Prince Albert. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Premier Scott Moe is standing by comments he recently made dealing with criticism the Saskatchewan government has been facing over its environmental record.

On Monday, the opposition New Democratic Party raised concerns about a speech Moe made at a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce event in Prince Albert.

In the speech, Moe said he wasn't bothered by criticism that Saskatchewan has the highest per capita carbon emissions in the country.

"A lot of folks will come to me and say, 'Hey, you guys have the highest carbon emissions per capita.'I don't care,'" said Moe during the speech. 

"We have the highest exports per capita in Canada as well. We make the cleanest products and then we send it to over 150 countries around the world."

Speaking to reporters after Question Period, Moe clarified that he was speaking about the province being judged by per capita emissions, and that the province should instead be judged by the emissions used to create its products.

"When you look at Saskatchewan's products, we have the cleanest products in the world," said Moe. 

"We have the lowest carbon content potash in the world. So, you should buy Saskatchewan potash when you're looking to buy some, maybe not that product from Russia or Belarus," said Moe.

Saskatchewan has long been criticized by environmental groups for its performance. 

According to the 2021 National Inventory Report published by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the province's greenhouse gas emissions currently leads the country in emissions per capita.

The study found Saskatchewan's emissions decreased by one megatonne from 2018 to 2019 and remained at relatively stable levels from 2014 to 2019.

Opposition Environment Critic Erika Ritchie said Moe's comments are evidence the premier does not take climate change seriously.

"The kind of response we heard from the premier indicates a very flippant response to a serious crisis here," she told reporters.

"We need serious leadership and action taken by our government. We need an all-government response and an economy-wide response to this problem."

However, Moe countered and said that using per capita measures to compare Saskatchewan to other provinces is wrongheaded.

"I would put forward that anyone that is talking about per capita emissions really doesn't care about climate change in any way," he said.

"What they are trying to do is score cheap political points. We have the cleanest products in the world per tonne of potash, per tonne of agri-food products, per per unit of uranium that is produced here."

Saskatchewan has long been at odds with the federal government's climate change plan. Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 that the federal government's carbon pricing program was constitutional, despite a court challenge led by the provincial government.

In 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan released its own 'made-in-Saskatchewan' climate change strategy called Prairie Resilience, with more than 40 commitments to address climate change.

However, the plan does not set provincial goals to reduce emissions by 2030. The federal government has set a target to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by that time. 

With files from Yasmine Ghania, Adam Hunter