Saskatchewan climate plan update promising but has holes: researcher

Click to play video 'Saskatchewan climate plan update promising but has holes: researcher' Saskatchewan climate plan update promising but has holes: researcher
WATCH ABOVE: A Regina researcher is encouraged by regular updates on the province's climate plan, but says there are missing elements. David Baxter reports.

If you ask the Saskatchewan government how they’re doing on the goals set up in their climate plan, Prairie Resilience, they’d say they are making good overall progress.

In a report released Wednesday, the province ranked 15 of 25 criteria as showing good overall progress, seven as “fair” and not enough data existed for a baseline on the remaining three.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan environment minister says first climate change review establishes baseline

Director of the Prairie Adaptation and Research Collaborative at the University of Regina David Sauchyn said, overall, the province has strong criteria for measuring the effectiveness of their climate plan.

However, he said there are some concerning items left off the list.

“For example, under natural systems there’s a focus on the soil and agriculture – which is reasonable – but there’s nothing about wetlands and the fact that we’ve lost so many wetlands. Perhaps the wetlands habitat should be restored as part of our natural capital,” Sauchyn said.

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Sauchyn continued that wetlands play a valuable role in flood mitigation, which is part of Prairie Resilience.

The amount of communities with flood plain mapping is one of the 25 criteria the province is evaluating, and it was one of three areas without a score. The goal is 100 per cent by 2030.

While flooding is an important item to look at, Sauchyn said he was surprised to see no criteria for drought strategies in Prairie Resilience’s grading criteria.

Sauchyn believes this stems from major floods earlier this decade, and ongoing issues in the Quill Lakes area. However, that’s not the case for much of the province.

“We still have a mindset that too much water is a problem, but our climate is drying out right now and in a few years we’re going to have a really bad drought,” he said.

“We’re so focused on the here and now we’ve forgotten how devastating drought can be, because it’s been since 2001, 2002 since we had a bad drought.”

The largest section in Prairie Resilience is “physical infrastructure” with seven of the 25 categories. This isn’t a major surprise for Sauchyn.

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“Government’s like infrastructure. They like spending money on infrastructure, and that’s part of the solution to climate change,” Sauchyn said.

“Ultimately the solution to climate change is going to require a change to human behaviour, but governments don’t like to go there. That’s one reason the carbon tax is so unpopular because the purpose of the carbon tax is to change human behaviour.”

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The report does not include tracking of overall, or individual emissions.

Sauchyn said the easiest way to reduce these emissions would be if people simply drove less. However, outside Saskatchewan’s major cities that is easier said than done.

“We have no trains, we now have no buses, we have no rapid transit in the cities, so the carbon tax looks good in theory, but in Saskatchewan, it doesn’t work very well,” he said.