Environment professor says Saskatchewan climate strategies aren’t tracking the right elements

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Environment professor says Saskatchewan climate strategies aren’t tracking the right elements
The province has 22 measures they are taking to try and address climate change, like soil protection compliance for forest harvesting – Jul 9, 2022

The Saskatchewan provincial government covered a number of climate change topics over the last few days, releasing the 2022 Resilience Report, SaskPower’s Annual Report, and touching on the 2022 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference.

But Dr. Oscar Zapata, assistant professor of the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, noted our climate change strategy might be looking at the wrong points.

“We can look at means to the ends, or we can look at the ends themselves. And I think that most climate strategies basically look at the means to achieve the ends. So we report what is happening with the means, but we don’t know exactly what is happening with the ends or the goals,” said Zapata.

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“Most of the goals are moving in the right direction, but we’re still only looking at the means, we are not looking at the final goals.”

He noted that tracking progress in the means is relatively easy compared to monitoring the ends, using the example of one of the measures being taken in the province’s climate resiliency plan.

“Measure number five is seedlings distributed from SaskPower’s Shand Greenhouse. Those are just means to an end, which is climate change mitigation and adaptation. And in the case of measure number five, it would be more important to count the number of trees that reach maturity, and how these trees are helping capture CO2 emissions.”

The province has 22 measures they are taking to try and address climate change, ranging from soil protection compliance for forest harvesting to ensuring water quality as part of the Healthy Beach Program.

Zapata also said that these strategies look at supply side interventions, meaning things like promotion of re-forestation and moving to renewable energy over fossil fuels.

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“We are not paying enough attention to demand side solutions, or what people can do on a daily basis.”

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He noted that regardless of the climate change steps taken, there will be those who benefit and those who don’t.

“Whatever is happening in one industry will have either positive or negative effects on the economy, and the rest of society. And the role of governments is to look at this big picture, taking all these considerations into account to make decisions.”

“Any public policies will leave winners and losers, and it’s the role of the government to consider who is winning and who is losing,” added Zapata.

Following the 2022 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference, Minister of Energy and Resources Jim Reiter was critical of the federal government’s approach.

“Unfortunately, federal energy and environmental policies continue to make life unaffordable for Canadians by inhibiting industry’s ability to produce Canada’s world-class resource products,” read the release.

“Although there were productive discussions in some areas, unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for the federal government to have important conversations addressing global energy shortages with the jurisdictions who are ultimately responsible for overseeing oil and gas production and regulations.

“Rather than imposing unachievable, baseless targets and caps on industry, the Trudeau government needs to work with them to build infrastructure and get our sustainable products to market.”

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Reiter noted that Canada is a leader in clean energy, adding that the oil and gas industry has gone to great lengths to be more environmentally friendly.

“We are a great supplier of energy. We should be supplying our entire country, as opposed to importing it,” Reiter said.

“We’re an exporter; that’s what we’ve always done in this country, and particularly in this province, we want to sell our goods around the world, and we import some things as well. But to import oil when we have an abundance of oil in Western Canada, to import it in Eastern Canada just seems ridiculous.”

He added that as technology continues to evolve, emissions will go down, and that’s what we should be focusing on.

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