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What to expect from Saskatchewan at COP28

An overview of the plans for the Saskatchewan pavilion at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai.
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Premier Scott Moe is flanked by participants at COP28: Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote of Black Fox Distillery outside Saskatoon, Kristjan Hebert of Hebert Grains of Moosomin, Marnel Jones of Mosaic, and Mike Crabtree of the Saskatchewan Research Council. 

REGINA - Dubai is hosting the COP28 conference on climate change, and the province of Saskatchewan is getting ready to present itself to the world there.

Premier Scott Moe and several representatives from the business and research sector met the media Thursday before jetting off to the United Arab Emirates, the host nation for what is officially the Conference of the Parties 28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

That event runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, but from a Saskatchewan perspective their hub of activities will be the Saskatchewan pavilion, which will be active between Dec. 3 and 12 with presentations and panel discussions, aimed at telling the Saskatchewan story and promoting a message there of a  “Strong, Sustainable Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan’s commitment to appear at COP28 has not been without controversy. In the last several days Opposition politicians have criticized the $765,000 price tag and slamming COP28 as the most expensive trip in Saskatchewan history. At the news conference Thursday, Premier Moe was again fending off even more questions from reporters about whether the expense is worth it.

While Moe and other government officials have insisted the pavilion is worth the expense, many residents don’t know the details of what Saskatchewan has planned at their pavilion in Dubai. Here now is a detailed look at what the province says people can expect from Saskatchewan’s participation at COP28:

What to expect at COP28:

The Conference of the Parties, held annually in a rotating numbers of countries, is annually the biggest gathering on climate change in the world. Nearly 200 countries around the world will participate, including Canada. 

The conference will offer a chance to network, to exchange ideas and forge relationships with people from around the world who are attending on issues impacting climate change, including sustainability efforts.

Premier Moe said this was “a tremendous opportunity for us to not only tell Saskatchewan’s story on the global stage… but telling how —  how we produce those products from an environmental sustainability perspective.”

Moe said Saskatchewan is one of the most trade-oriented provinces in Canada, and that means “sharing our story abroad." That story they plan to share, Moe indicated, is of Saskatchewan producing “some of the most environmentally sustainable goods that you can find on earth,” as well as “sharing innovation opportunities” and “learning from other countries.”

Such Saskatchewan initiatives Moe pointed to included the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project, the highest grade uranium on earth, the most sustainable potash mines in the world producing 50 percent of the emissions of competing jurisdictions, and precision farm techniques such as zero-till innovations producing wheat and canola with a 65 percent lower carbon content than the next seven largest producers. 

“At the end of the day what the government role in this is, is to provide a platform. Provide a platform for 50 or 60 Saskatchewan-based organizations to tell their story about how they’re producing some of the most sustainable products in the world, and why if you’re in the market to purchase those products, you should be having a very close look at purchasing from Saskatchewan.”

The program at the Saskatchewan Pavilion:

The Saskatchewan Pavilion will run from Dec. 3 to 12 and is located in the large trade show area of the conference known as the “Green Zone.” Highlights on the schedule include a number of plenary sessions planned.

Dec. 4: One discussion will be on Pioneering Microreactors in Saskatchewan.

Dec. 5: The panel discussions focusing on Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage - Sustainable CO2

Dec.6: There are panel discussions on energy mining and critical minerals.

Dec. 8: There are events focusing on Indigenous participation in the energy sector and post-secondary institution plans for advancing sustainability.

Dec. 9: Planned is a panel discussion on sustainable growth, and Energy and Food Security 

Dec.10: There will be a focus on climate smart farming, research and reducing fuel water, waste logistics and alternative proteins in the ag sector.

There will also be days set aside for Saskatchewan to be presenting on trade and investment opportunities.

To promote their events at COP28, the province has launched a dedicated webpage at sustainablesk/cop28, which will list the times of all of the sessions planned at the pavilion.

Who’s going:

The province provided a list of the 59 companies or organizations that will be using either the pavilion event space or the meeting room space at the Saskatchewan Pavilion. About seven will be using the meeting room while the rest will be in the event space.

The organizations range from well-known companies with Saskatchewan interests including Nutrien, Mosaic and Cameco, organizations including the City of Regina, Economic Development Regina and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, and educational institutions including the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. But there are also out of province organizations utilizing the space as well including the University of British Columbia, Calgary law firms such as Bennett Jones and McCarthy Tetreault, and other provincial governments including Alberta and Newfoundland. 

Moe said having them there “adds to the conversation. We’re there not only as a province of Saskatchewan, but as the province of Saskatchewan within the nation of Canada.” 

He pointed to one panel he will be a part of that will also include Premier Danielle Smith of Alberta and former premier Christy Clark of British Columbia.

“We don’t operate in isolation, so when we can work with other provinces, we’re going to.  When we can provide them the opportunity to better strengthen their presence there, we’re going to do that too… stronger provinces make for a stronger nation and that’s the goal.”

Whether the Sask. pavilion will make a difference for the province:

At the news conference Thursday, Moe was joined by representatives from four of the organizations also heading to COP28: Kristjan Hebert of Hebert Grains of Moosomin, Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote of Black Fox Distillery outside Saskatoon, Marnel Jones of Mosaic, and Mike Crabtree of the Saskatchewan Research Council. 

They indicated their plans to tell their own organization’s stories of sustainability and innovation while in Dubai. Their thoughts on COP seemed to be a response to the recent talk questioning the necessity of Saskatchewan to be there.

“It’s an essential, it’s not just a nice to have,” said Crabtree, who said “COP is a marketplace for ideas, for technology, and for investment.” 

Jones said COP is “where the conversations are had on the defining issues of our times, and for Saskatchewan business, it is our opportunity to add our stories, our  solutions, our ambitions to an important discussion.”

Those going to COP28 welcomed the platform the province was providing for Saskatchewan.

“I think the government is by having their own pavilion and by going together, to really tell our story around food, fuel and fertilizer and really help sustainably do that for the world, is the amplification of the message,” said Hebert. “Conferences like this are like having young kids — you’ve usually got to repeat yourself five or six times before it really hits home. And so with the amount of presentations that are going to be telling the same story — I think that story hits home a lot harder and hopefully travels back to either to their company or their country and leads to future optimism and opportunity for the province.”

Stefanyshyn-Cote said she was going to COP28 anyway, but “this gives us another opportunity to get our message out.” 

Having the province behind them is “accreditation for someone small like us because it shows that yes, we’re doing a good job, but it’s not just my mother saying we’re doing a good job. It’s everybody else that’s behind us, so we look at this as a win-win.”

Why now:

For those looking from the outside it might seem there is more focus by Saskatchewan on this particular COP conference this year than others before, but Premier Moe did point out that Saskatchewan has attended previous COP conferences. He said he had attended the one in Marrakech, Morocco when he was Minister of Environment, and he noted Premier Brad Wall and Environment Minister Herb Cox attended in France as well. 

The province had also been at COP in Egypt last year, but didn’t have a pavilion, with Moe saying the cost would have been quite a bit higher because of the footprint there.

As for why they are doing the pavilion this year, Moe pointed to the relationship Saskatchewan has formed with the Emirates, and he also noted this conference would be one in particular in which the energy industry would be heavily involved. 

“We haven’t done it in quite this way before at a COP,” said Moe, “although we’ve attended a number of COPs… (we’ve) been able to establish a very strong relationship with the government in the United Arab Emirates, and the organizers of this conference this year, to really make an impact with the industries that we have that align with not only the conference perspectives and goals, but align also with some of the conversations that we’ve had with the hosting country as well.”

Who will Premier Moe be meeting:

Premier Moe himself will be travelling as part of a delegation of five people which he said is usually smaller than what they normally do for trade missions. He confirmed he plans be meeting with various political leaders and ministers at COP28 including Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. He also said there were plans for him to do some engagements in the Blue Zone.

One report circulating is that Minister Guilbeault could possibly use the COP28 conference to announce a cap on oil and gas emissions. When asked about that, Moe responded “that would be unfortunate.”

Moe said this would be a national policy that would only survive if the Liberals were to win another election, adding it is “an ill thought out policy like many of the others.”