Saskatchewan’s geography makes it an ideal place for renewable energy, but the province’s opposition to federal climate plans still gives it the country’s highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and could prevent Canada from meeting climate targets, says a technology writer and journalist.
Saskatchewan’s continuing use of coal “is quite a paradox when we look at its geographical advantage,” writes Anusuya Datta in an op-ed for CBC. “It is one of the sunniest and windiest provinces in Canada, but its current share of renewable power is abysmally low at only 17%, with most of it coming from hydro.”
The province’s per capita emissions are 246% above the national average and rank among the highest in the world, notes Datta. While Saskatchewan’s sparse population unfairly loads the per capita data, she the province’s emissions compare unfavourably to other sparsely populated places—even including oil-rich Kuwait.
“In fact, Kuwait has registered a decrease of 0.46% in emissions since 2015, while Saskatchewan’s output has increased 75% since 1990,” she writes.
Datta adds that Saskatchewan’s high emissions are not fully explained by the “standard excuse” that moving away from an oil-based economy will undercut jobs and economic growth. The province’s opposition to phasing out coal-fired electricity, among the largest sources of carbon emissions, indicates the issue is one of intent.
Although Canada has made a 2030 coal phaseout a prominent part of its national emissions reduction strategy, Saskatchewan has not moved to reduce its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel. Instead, the province focuses on carbon capture technology to reduce emissions while sustaining coal consumption, despite the epic technological and financial failure of its Boundary Dam CCS project. Figures from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society show that the project addresses only 1% of the province’s 76 megatonnes of annual emissions, despite the C$1.5-billion spent to build it.
Meanwhile, says Datta, the province has left its vast potential to generate solar and wind energy largely untapped.
“Saskatchewan must understand this is not a federal versus provincial fight. There can be no winners in this battle,” she says. “This isn’t a matter of politics. It’s a matter of urgent action now.”