Saskatoon falling behind on climate action goals, progress report says

The City of Saskatoon is not on track with its plans for combating climate change, according to a progress report on the city’s Climate Action Plan.

City operations saw 5% increase in greenhouse gas emissions over 5-year period, report says

A pilot program to test an electric bus in Saskatoon was expected to reduce 50.3 tonnes of CO2 per year and save around $27,500 in fuel costs compared to a diesel bus. (CBC)

The City of Saskatoon is not on track with its plans for combating climate change, according to a progress report on the city's Climate Action Plan.

The ultimate goal is for emissions to reach 80 per cent below 2014 levels by 2050.

But the city actually saw an increase in greenhouse gas emissions for civic operations, services and facilities over the five-year period from 2014-19.

There was a slight decrease of two per cent overall but the report said that's likely due to improvements in systems for collecting and reporting data.

Per capita emissions decreased by 15 per cent despite an increase in population, which the report says is encouraging. 

"It shows that community actions are having an impact on the rate at which we generate emissions, even though absolute emissions remained relatively constant over the 5-year period," the report said.

Last year, some jurisdictions reported a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions due to less activity from COVID-19 lockdowns, but South said the city won't have data about 2020 numbers until a later date.

Projects underway

Jeanna South, the City of Saskatoon's director of sustainability, said the city hasn't seen more reductions in emissions in part because many of the city's initiatives are still in the planning stage.

"There are a number of initiatives and significant initiatives that are outlined in the plan and that are underway, they just haven't reached a stage where they're starting to reduce emissions," South said. 

Some projects underway include the Bus Rapid Transit system, active transportation system and a pilot project to convert the city's fleet to electric vehicles.

Many of the projects will create operational savings for the city as well, like the Saskatoon Light and Power's LED light replacement project, South said.

"They're not necessarily just being brought forward to implement the low emissions plan, they're being brought forward because they're good projects for the community that have many co-benefits such as health and safety."

16 out of 40 actions see progress

The city's Climate Action Plan includes two frameworks: the Low Emissions Community (LEC) Plan, and the Corporate Climate Adaptation Strategy.

There are about 40 actions listed in the plan, and South said 16 actions in the plan are on schedule or ahead of schedule, and six of the actions need to be started by the end of the year to stay on schedule.

"While we haven't progressed the 2023 targets as we would have liked, and these early targets are not expected to be met, the 2050 GHG targets still can be," South said.

South said the 2050 goals can be reached if the actions are fully resourced and carried out over the next 29 years.

South said that although the targets don't look like they'll be met by 2023, it's still important to set challenging goals.

"Without targets, it's difficult to gain that momentum and to see significant change. So they do help provide a context upon which to set goals and then to measure whether success and whether momentum is being made in not meeting targets."

'A slight detour'

She said falling short of a target allows them to consider which changes they could make to catch up.

The LEC plan will be refreshed in 2025, South said, and if there are certain tasks that haven't moved forward, they'll come up with alternate ideas or actions.

"So in that way, it allows us to continue to work toward meeting the target, although the actual road that we're following on our roadmap may need to be ... a slight detour in order to kind of carry on in the same direction."

The Climate Action Plan progress report will be presented to committee on April 6.


Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan.


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