Press Release: “Prairie Resilience” Is Not Enough

Press Release
Saskatchewan Environmental Society
Thursday, December 13, 2018
For immediate release

Prairie Resilience” is not enough: Saskatchewan’s role in meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction pledge

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is calling on the Saskatchewan government to improve its level of ambition when it comes to reducing province-wide greenhouse gas pollution.  Saskatchewan currently releases more than 76 million tonnes of manmade greenhouse gas pollutants into the atmosphere each year. On a per capita basis that works out to just over 69 tonnes per person, more than triple the Canadian average.

The Saskatchewan government recently prepared a plan known as “Prairie Resilience,” and made it the basis for a provincial climate change strategy. In a newly released publication, “Prairie Resilience” Is Not Enough, SES analyzes the Saskatchewan government’s plans for greenhouse gas emission reduction in every sector of the Saskatchewan economy. SES finds that in all but two sectors those plans fall well short of what Saskatchewan needs to do if it wants to carry its weight in meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction pledge under the Paris Agreement. That pledge is for a 30% reduction below 2005 emission levels by 2030.

“The world is facing a climate change crisis,” the co-authors of the SES report said today. “The frequency of extreme weather events rose 46% between 2000 and 2016. Public health and safety is being threatened by climate change impacts such as sea level rise, the spread of disease to new areas of the globe, drought, fires, and the consequences that flow from more severe flooding and more powerful hurricanes. There are also grave ecological risks; already, for instance, the Great Barrier Reef is in sharp decline because of elevated ocean temperatures caused by climate change.”

These risks to ecosystems and public safety are being driven by steadily rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which is why it matters so much that Saskatchewan and every other jurisdiction on the globe sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to bring greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan down to a level that aligns with Canada’s pledge under the Paris Agreement, emission levels would need to drop to no more than 48 million tonnes per year by 2030. SES urges the Government of Saskatchewan to adopt this goal as the centerpiece of its climate change policy. That would translate into a 28 million tonne per year reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved over the next 12 years.

The proposed actions in the Province’s current “Prairie Resilience” plan, if fully implemented, are unlikely to get Saskatchewan much more than half way towards this goal. Additional emission reduction measures are badly needed. In its report, SES outlines more than 30 additional measures that could be taken. They include:

  • phasing out conventional coal-fired power stations,
  • expanding cogeneration of electricity in Saskatchewan,
  • installing 500 megawatts of solar power onto the grid,
  • introducing strict regulations to monitor for and repair methane leaks in the oil and gas sector,
  • incentivizing the purchase of ultra-fuel-efficient vehicles,
  • lowering the speed limit on divided highways,
  • restoring a provincial inter-city bus service,
  • supporting extensive tree planting programs for carbon sequestration,
  • establishing a comprehensive building retrofit program and more ambitious energy efficiency standards in the provincial building code,
  • instituting more ambitious performance standards for large industrial emitters, and
  • introducing a price on carbon in line with the Government of Canada’s plans.

If the full suite of measures SES has recommended were to be implemented, they would take Saskatchewan a long way towards being fully compliant with Canada’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.