Answering Saskatchewan government talking points #13: We’re committed – really we are…

The Saskatchewan government’s 2016 White Paper on Climate Change claims that “we are having the wrong conversation” by focussing on the need for emissions reductions in our own patch.  The authors make a number of questionable claims to back up this opinion.  Here is a response to one of them.

Saskatchewan is committed to contributing to national emissions reductions targets, and has already taken steps to generate significant GHG reductions in our province. In fact, by 2030, Saskatchewan will be one of the few Canadian provinces that will show an actual GHG reduction from current levels.

– Government of Saskatchewan White Paper on Climate Change

This statement is astonishingly bold in its cynicism – if only “a few” provinces are able to make any emissions reduction at all, then what are the prospects of even meeting Canada’s inadequate 2030 target of an overall 30% reduction?  This target was set by Stephen Harper’s administration and kept in place by the Trudeau government, with the affirmation of all provincial premiers, including Mr Wall, in their March 2016 Vancouver declaration.  When he agreed to that declaration, did Mr Wall’s signature mean anything?

In any case, to present Saskatchewan as somehow a climate leader, at least under the present government’s plans, is disingenuous.  Let’s look at the government’s supposed “steps to generate significant GHG reductions”:

In the electricity sector, Saskatchewan is a laggard.  Of the four provinces still dependent on coal-fired generation, it is the only one with no clear plan for an exit.  Despite some changes in SaskPower policy it is close to the back of the pack in renewables roll-out.  The much-vaunted Boundary Dam 3 CCS project now commits to saving only about 1% of Saskatchewan’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.  Meanwhile, the present government’s fixation with expansion of extractive industry will, if successful, more than make up for that saving, and indeed emissions from.

In the transport sector the government is doing nothing to encourage low-emissions vehicles, nor to smooth the transit to electricity.  It has not merely neglected public transit but deliberately closed down the Saskatchewan Transport Corporation.

There are no incentives for energy efficiency in industry: indeed, expansion of the province’s most energy-intensive industries has been encouraged, with no real attempt to diversify the economy.  Legislation to limit emissions from large emitters, passed in 2009, has never been proclaimed or implemented.  Regulations to limit venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas lack the ambition even of Alberta or North Dakota.

Saskatchewan remains one of the few jurisdictions in the developed world which has no building energy code.

And Mr Wall is determined to block any form of carbon pricing, however well-designed.

So it is difficult to see any substance to Mr Wall’s claim of commitment.  We expect and will demand better of his successor.