New code overlooks climate change

The Province of Saskatchewan will be adopting a new environmental code to protect our natural wealth for future generations. Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press

REGINA – The Province of Saskatchewan will soon be adopting a new environmental code.

The supporting regulations that make up the new Saskatchewan Environmental Code are contained within the Environmental Management and Protection Act 2010 and The Forest Resources Management Amendment Act 2010.

The code will address areas such as air quality, environmentally impacted sites, water management and natural resources protection, but it won’t address climate change.

Only a day after the United Nations released it’s final report on climate change – calling on governments to take urgent action – critics in Saskatchewan were quick to point out that nothing on greenhouse gases was included in the new environmental code.

“This is really irresponsible and unfair because Saskatchewan has…very high greenhouse gas emissions per capita, about three times Canada’s average,” said Ann Coxworth, Saskatchewan Environmental Society research adviser.

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The process to develop the new code was lengthy, with more than 200 experts and industry leaders from all sectors contributing to its development. In 2012, the Province made a draft version of the code available to the public, and more than 1,300 people responded by either attending meetings or providing written submissions.

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Saskatchewan Environment Minister Scott Moe said a climate change chapter was drafted, but ultimately dropped, as the province is waiting for guidance from the federal government.

“And we’ll continue those discussions and as we said this is phase one of the code implementation,” Moe said.

The old code specified outcomes, as well as the exact process needed to reach that outcome. The government says businesses are now able to present their own plans to comply with environmental standards and can use new technology or more modern practises.

The minister offers an analogy: “If you have a meeting in Saskatoon, at six o’clock, under the old system you would have a process where you would get in a certain vehicle, have certain directions, stop in Chamberlain for a coffee, stop in Davidson to fuel up.” Under the new system, as long as you could make it to Saskatoon for six o’clock, the government would be satisfied.

The NDP though, has its own analogy:

“If you were driving to Saskatoon today and you were going to be late for a meeting, and you knew there were going to be no police officers on the highway, you’d have a real challenge to stay under the speed limit or not,” said Cathy Sproule, NDP environment critic.

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The new code will come into effect through stages to allow affected industries to prepare for changes.

The first new code change, dealing with forest management, will come into effect on January 5, 2015.

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