REGINA — The Saskatchewan Environmental Society said that it is concerned the provincial government has yet to announce further plans to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan, amid rising concerns about climate change.
SES board member Peter Prebble held a press conference on Nov. 9, calling on the Saskatchewan government to take immediate action to address and improve upon emission reduction goals.
“We’re urging the Saskatchewan government to view climate change as an emergency circumstance,” said Prebble.
Saskatchewan has released a total of one billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere over the past 14 years, said Prebble, with approximately ⅔ attributed to fossil fuel burning.
“If we were a country, we would have the highest greenhouse gas emissions for our population size on the whole planet,” said Prebble. “This is really unacceptable.”
Prebble said that continued ignorance of the climate change emergency could be catastrophic, and that the consequences of climate change are already being felt — like increasing extreme heat, extended wildfire seasons, and severe drought.
The SES provided a letter of 25 recommendations, sent to the officer of Premier Scott Moe, they believe will help achieve deeper cuts into Saskatchewan's emission output if implemented.
The SES wants to see Saskatchewan pledge to follow the target set by the United Nations at the ongoing COP26 conference, which challenges nations to reach a 45 per cent cut of emissions by 2030.
Prebble said the SES has several ideas on how to begin approaching such a goal, beginning with changes to the province’s electricity, construction, transportation, conservation and oil and gas sectors.
Highlights from the SES’s recommendations include:
- a complete phase-out of conventional and coal-fired production of electricity, and a move to a clean power grid by increasing sustainable methods like solar and wind;
- transportation incentives to switch to electric vehicles, including establishing a network of charging stations across the province;
- lowering speed limits on highways to 100 km/h province-wide;
- bringing back an inter-provincial bus service;
- a province-wide initiative to encourage high-efficiency building in construction, including both residential and commercial projects, and changes to current building code to include high-efficiency methods by 2024;
- an incentive program for homeowners to retrofit existing homes to be high-efficiency;
- better efforts to protect natural areas, with an increased target of 30 per cent by 2030, up from the current goal of 12 per cent;
- collaboration with the federal government to provide incentives for shelterbelt planning, wetlands restoration and other nature solutions to improve carbon sequestration;
- tripling the current goal of a 10 per cent cut to emissions by 2030 for large industrial emitters;
- tighter regulations on methane venting, a pollution tax on methane production and immediate action to address leaking inactive oil wells;
- dropping current plans to increase oil production 25 per cent by 2030;
- offering support to Regina and Saskatoon, both of whom have pledged to greenhouse gas reduction goals and renewable energy goals as individual cities.
The key to reducing emissions significantly will hinge on Saskatchewan’s willingness to reduce its reliance on oil, said Prebble.
The SES is calling for an 80 per cent reduction in methane emissions by 2030, which they say is achievable with dedicated efforts to move away from oil production.
“The reality is, we need to cut our reliance on oil. Obviously, we’re not going to face it overnight, but we do need to begin to reduce,” said Prebble. “We can meet our needs very nicely with our current production, but we don’t need to import any oil.”
Prebble said that the province is capable of reducing emissions as outlined, but only through commitment on the provincial and federal levels of government.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort at reducing emissions,” said Prebble. “We want to urge the federal and provincial governments to start cooperating closely together to achieve these emission reductions.”