The Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, recognizes the seriousness of climate change.Even so he is against the Federal Government’s proposal to reduce CO2 emissions that are the cause of climate change. Wall opposes the Federal policy to put a price on carbon, whether it is by a carbon tax or by cap and trade.
He points out that the three principal export industries in Saskatchewan will be affected: potash, agriculture and fossil fuels. Putting a price on carbon will increase the cost of exports produced by these industries, rendering them less competitive in world trade. He referred to competition from exports from the US, a country which he claims will never implement a carbon tax.
This concern is similar to objections advanced by an industry opposing a government policy that will impact its profits. Yet Alberta supports putting a price on carbon, although it – like Saskatchewan – also depends significantly upon exports.
Saskatchewan is the province with the highest per capita emissions in Canada. Emissions in Saskatchewan have increased since 1990, and further increases are projected. These increased emissions in themselves will make it extremely difficult for the Federal Government and other Provinces to reduce emissions to meet Canada’s 2020 reduction targets submitted at COP 21.
Power generation is a large per centage of Saskatchewan’s emissions. To reduce these emissions, Wall proposes to increase renewable energy to supply supply 50% of SaskPower’s generating capacity by 2030.
Wall observed that future world emissions from coal-fired power plants, planned or under construction, will be much larger in relation to future Canadian emissions. In this situation he sees an opportunity for Canada. He proposes that the Federal Government help fund the development of the next generation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Once developed Canada could make the technology available to other fossil fuel countries who could deploy it to reduce their national emissions.
CCS technology has been around for several decades, but the fossil fuel industry has not yet invested sufficient funds to assure its commercial utility. Currently fossil fuel companies regard CCS as insufficient and impractical. The lack of industry support is one reason why Alberta cut back on its contribution to funding research into this technology.
Saskatchewan recently financed the development and installation of CCS technology at the Boundary Dam coal-fired generating plant. This installation does sequester carbon emissions– but not to the degree anticipated.
The difficulty is that this technology is more expensive than other methods of reducing emissions. Yet Wall believes that continuing government support will result in a technology that can be exported around the world.
Where will the necessary research funds come from? Wall proposes that the Federal Government “re-deploy” the $2.65 billion committed to the UN Green Climate Fund.The UN established this fund to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation measures. Instead this money would be channeled to Canadian research into CCS.
Canada has reneged on many of its international climate change undertakings. If it does not make good its commitment to the Green Climate Fund, there will be a torrent of international criticism. Having just regained the respect of the world environmental community, Canada must avoid being classified again as an outlier.
Environmentalists have questioned how a government can enable such extensive development of renewable energy sources if at the same time it provides substantial support for a less-cost effective technology. In their view, putting a price on carbon demonstrates that a government is serious about reducing emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels, which is essential to changing the source of energy to renewables.