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Sask. environment minister unveils carbon tax free climate strategy

Click to play video 'Sask. environment minister unveils carbon tax free climate strategy' Sask. environment minister unveils carbon tax free climate strategy
The Saskatchewan government has been resilient in its fight against a carbon tax, and that’s a key theme in their alternative pitch to the federal government. Provincial affairs reporter David Baxter has more on how the province aims to avoid the new tax – Dec 4, 2017

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan unveiled a “made-in-Saskatchewan” climate change plan the province is hopeful the federal government will see as a carbon tax alternative.

The plan emphasizes technology and carbon offsets as solutions over a direct price on carbon.

“This plan is broader and bolder than a single policy such as a carbon tax and will achieve better and more meaningful outcomes over the long term,” Duncan said.

READ MORE: It’s not a carbon tax, it’s a ‘behaviour-changing measure’: government officials

“Our climate change strategy recognizes the investment and innovation that has taken place and sets out the road map for future actions.

This is about protecting our people and communities as much as it is about working with industry and others to reduce emissions here in Saskatchewan.”

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The federal government has said it will impose a $10 per tonne carbon tax next year for any province that does not implement a carbon pricing strategy. That tax is expected to grow to $50 per tonne in 2022.

This Saskatchewan strategy focuses on building sector specific, output-based performance standards. These areas include oil and gas, agriculture, electricity generation and large industrial emitters. Performance standards will be developed through stakeholder consultation over the next year.

The province emphasizes that carbon compliance standards will be flexible. Areas plans that will be discussed include:

  • Making improvements at facilities to reduce emissions intensity;
  • Purchasing a carbon offset, representing a reduction in GHG emissions;
  • Using best performance credits;
  • Utilizing a market mechanism outlined in the Paris Accord, such as an internationally transferred mitigation outcome; and
  • Paying into a technology fund.

The planned implementation date of this strategy is Jan. 1, 2019, a full year after Ottawa plans on implementing a carbon tax in non-compliant provinces. Saskatchewan is the only province that does not plan on introducing a carbon pricing strategy.

Duncan argued the system of buying carbon offsets and paying into a technology fund is not a carbon tax under a different name. He said it is a market driven approach where a price for carbon will be established by those forces, not the government. NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule said that this is essentially a carbon tax.

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“This is a form of carbon pricing. I think what’s really unfortunate is that we haven’t even seen any consultation with the federal government to know whether we’re still going to end up with a federally imposed carbon tax on top of this,” Sproule said.

READ MORE: Sask. premier describes federal carbon tax plan as a ‘ransom note’

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna took to Facebook to respond to the plan. She said it is encouraging that Saskatchewan took a step toward carbon pricing for heavy emitters. However, she said Saskatchewan will likely not hit federal targets because the price is only applied to heavy emitters, and not the entire economy.

While there is no indication in her response if Saskatchewan will face a federal carbon tax, McKenna said that Ottawa will be reviewing each province’s climate change plan to see how they stack up to federal standards.

Minister Catherine McKenna’s full response to the Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy:

 

In addition to these options, the province reaffirmed their commitment to increase renewable power generation to 50 per cent by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent.

Regulations for electrical power generation will be introduced that the province hopes will help facilitate an equivalency agreement with the federal government in continuing operations at coal-fired power plants.

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The strategy also takes a look at building efficiencies, and Saskatchewan will be adopting the 2015 National Building Code to achieve these goals.

A freight strategy will be implemented to improve delivery times, reduce fuel use and create efficiencies.

Finally, the province will develop a climate resiliency model to help communities adapt to a changing climate and mitigate the effects.

Saskatchewan’s full climate change strategy document: