Lowering Emissions Without a Carbon Tax
The Saskatchewan Government’s Climate Change Strategy
The effects of climate change can already be seen in the province, says Sharla Hordenchuk, executive director of the climate change branch with the Ministry of Environment.
ypically we see fires in the North but now we’re seeing grass fires in the southern part of the province,” she said. “Even if emissions went to zero, we’d still have to prepare ourselves for a changing climate.”
It was standing room only at Hordenchuk’s talk at the APEGS Annual Meeting, “Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy”.
The Saskatchewan Party provincial government has challenged a federally imposed carbon tax in court, and while Hordenchuk said she couldn’t speak to that court case, she did explain why they believe the provincial plan is more effective than a tax.
“Putting a tax on the people of this province won’t lower the emissions here,” she said. “We have the most landfills per capita, we have the most highways per capita. We’re geographically dispersed and we’re sitting on resources. We’re really different.” The cold climate in Saskatchewan and its resource-based economy make reducing emissions difficult, she said. Instead, the plan they’ve developed tries to balance the province’s natural systems, infrastructure and economy.
Emissions are still part of the story, just not the whole story. There are 42 commitments in the strategy, including frameworks for emergency response plans, wildfire response plans, crop diversification, increasing renewable energy and using recycled water for industrial facilities.
One of the options they’re looking at regarding emissions is “flexible compliance.” If the standards couldn’t be met, the lack of compliance could be made up by paying into a technology fund or paying an offset credit.
In non-regulated industries like agriculture and transportation, they would reward those who are doing well in those sectors despite the lack of regulation. Saskatchewan’s forests and fields are also carbon sinks, and Hordenchuk said she would like to see the province recognized for that contribution.
One of the challenges of working on any sort of climate change plan is how quickly the situation can change. “It’s a fast-paced file; it always has been,” she said.
Their goal going forward is to make sure the plan continues to be executed. They plan on having a resiliency model and regulatory framework released by January 2019.
“We have to report on progress. We aren’t just releasing the strategy and walking away,” Hordenchuk said. “We have a pretty rushed path to January 1, 2019, but it’s of utmost importance to our province.”
Provinces have been invited to submit their own plans for the federal government to consider, and she said they’re “thinking about what that might look like.”