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Saskatchewan’s climate change costs going up while budget appears to have gone down

Click to play video: 'Climate change costs up, budget down' Climate change costs up, budget down
WATCH: Saskatchewan has been tasked with some big changes to reduce its emissions, but this year's provincial budget estimates show significantly less money to co-ordinate for the cause than last year's did. – Apr 10, 2021

Saskatchewan is tasked with making some big changes to reduce emissions, but Environment Minister Warren Kaeding says the province didn’t budget for them this year.

While the province lost its Supreme Court battle against the federal government’s push for carbon pricing and has announced it will now come up with a system of its own, Kaeding told Global News the 2021-22 budget that was released on Tuesday was determined in advance of the ruling.

“We had a very compelling argument. We were quite confident in what we put forward. So we’re not going to preclude having kind of an if-and-or-what developed in the budget,” Kaeding said on Thursday. “Anything we do now will likely be in the next budget year.”

In a news release earlier in the week, the government did note $255,000 would go to the output-based performance standards program to assist with developing and implementing carbon offset.

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Read more: Saskatchewan to bring in own carbon price on fuel following Supreme Court decision

But moreover, the 2021-22 budget estimates show $3.35 million for climate change and adaptation this year, compared to $5.873 million the fiscal year prior. Officials have attributed the drop to the winding down of the net-metering program that allows customers to connect renewables to the grid to offset the cost of what’s drawn out.

Saskatchewan Environmental Society board member Peter Prebble said the dip in funding is disappointing.

“I was really hoping to see in this budget a commitment by the government of Saskatchewan to a more ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction plan,” Prebble told Global News.

“The Supreme Court has emphasized that every province needs to pull its weight and it’s also identified that Saskatchewan and Alberta have been increasing their emissions over the last decade,” he said.

Read more: Saskatchewan unveils climate change plan; will not submit to Ottawa for assessment

According to the most recent publicly available Statistics Canada data, Saskatchewan emitted 76.4 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (or carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2018. While it was behind Alberta, Ontario and Quebec in terms of the sheer volume, a breakdown by population moves it up to the top spot, with approximately 69 tonnes per capita.

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The United Nations has said emissions need to drop by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050.

Under the 2015 legally binding climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to a 30 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. It’s a goal Saskatchewan subscribed to.

But figures currently on the provincial government’s website suggest Saskatchewan is aiming for an approximately 16 per cent reduction from 2018 levels.

“Did you know: 12 million tonnes of annual greenhouse gases will be reduced by 2030 through the Prairie Resilience strategy,” states a sidebar on the website, which doesn’t provide any point of reference or clear baseline.

Kaeding touted Saskatchewan’s Methane Action Plan for the oil and gas sector, which has begun to yield some tangible results. He also noted investment in small modular reactors and that the overall budget reflects initiatives built into other departments.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan to bring in own carbon price on fuel following Supreme Court decision' Saskatchewan to bring in own carbon price on fuel following Supreme Court decision
Saskatchewan to bring in own carbon price on fuel following Supreme Court decision – Mar 26, 2021

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