Sask. environment minister calls new federal emissions goals 'ambitious' and 'concerning'

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Saskatchewan's environment minister calls the federal government's new climate targets
Saskatchewan's environment minister calls the federal government's new climate targets

The pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "blow past" previous emissions targets has surprised Saskatchewan's environment minister who calls the new target "concerning."

At a climate summit led by U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, Trudeau said Canada will reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — which would cut total emissions much more than the target first pitched by the former Conservative government and agreed to by former environment minister Catherine McKenna at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

Saskatchewan Environment Minister Warren Kaeding said Thursday he found the announcement "very surprising" as he had spoken to his federal counterpart Jonathan Wilkinson Wednesday afternoon and was given "no indication" of the new targets.

"It is significantly more ambitious than where it was before. We were working were hard toward their previous goal of 30 per cent reduction by 2030."

Kaeding said industry partners in various sectors are "working very hard" at hitting the 30 per cent goal.

"The very ambitious targets released this morning is definitely concerning to us."

Canada has long maintained it would slash emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. In real terms, that would mean lowering GHG emissions from 732 megatonnes to 513 megatonnes.

He called the new targets a "challenge" which provides a "short runway for our industries to get to those reduction levels."

Kaeding said to help the federal government meet its target, it would require a significant investment into innovation in the province.

"We're a very trade-exposed province. The majority of the product that we mine, produce or manufacturer is exported. To hit these new goals now is going to put a significant strain on those industries to be able to compete."

Kaeding said Saskatchewan companies would be competing against countries with more investments into technology and those with less or little emissions reduction targets.

He mentioned Saskatchewan's potash industry as one that is competing against Russian companies that do not have "as strict of requirements as we do in Canada."

He said the province wants to reduce its emissions by 12 megatonnes by 2030.

Kaeding said the government would talk with industry and assess if that target was reasonable or able to be expanded "without putting our industry at risk."

He said Saskatchewan industries were working toward a 30 per cent goal and then all of a sudden they wake up this morning and now they're working in the mid-40s."

"That changes the financial aspect to a lot of our major companies."

Kaeding called being the environment minister and defending Saskatchewan's trade-exposed economy "a tricky balance."

He said there needs to be "global cooperation" on reducing emissions and measurement of emissions needs to be "consistent" across G7 and G20 nations.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili agreed with Kaeding's concern that the province was not given fair warning about the new emissions targets.

"I thought they should have had a briefing on the federal budget and I thought they should have had a conversation about these targets before they are announced."

Meili said the province and the federal government have a relationship and climate change initiatives were part of an important national conversation.

"On the other hand, this is a relationship the premier has done everything to poison at every step."

Sask. releases 'State of Environment' report

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan government published its 'State of the Environment' report.

Kaeding said the report is online and will be updated.

He said the province is seeing "positive results" in what it is measuring in terms of environmental impacts.

He said he believed the province is one of the first to publish an online "real-time measurement."

"It provides a good snapshot of where we are in the province. It also provides a lot of indicators as to where we are headed."

Sask. led country in per capita emissions in 2019

According to a new report published last week by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatchewan led the country in per capita emissions in 2019.

Saskatchewan's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions decreased by one megatonne from 2018 to 2019, but they've remained at relatively similar levels from 2014 to 2019, the last year measured in the report.

In those years, levels were consistently between 74 and 76 megatonnes. Since 2005, Saskatchewan's emissions have risen about 10 per cent, making it one of the five provinces that have not reduced GHGs in that time. The others are Newfoundland and Labrador; Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.