What do you put forward as a provincial climate change plan if you’re one of the country’s most outspoken and unbending opponents of the federal government’s plan for a minimum “floor price” on carbon?
If you’re Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, you craft a narrative that relies heavily on anticipated technological breakthroughs funded by clawing back $2.65 billion that Canada has promised to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change.
Wall wants Ottawa to step back from those foreign commitments and spend the money in Canada instead, funding the advance of technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power. Saskatchewan, with greenhouse gas emissions rising faster than any other Canadian province, hosts the country’s only operating CCS facility at Boundary Dam, and is mining the world’s largest deposit of high-grade uranium at McArthur River.
Speaking to a business audience in Regina, Wall continued to denounce the federal government’s proposed carbon price. “There are three approaches we can take to fighting climate change,” he said. “Adaptation, innovation, and taxation. Of the three, a carbon tax will do the most harm to the economy while having the least positive impact on reducing emissions.”
Wall’s own plan appears to rest on confidence in future technology to develop low-carbon energy sources, and a belief in society’s ability to adapt to a disrupted climate. Wall called on Ottawa to double its funding for research into how Canada can adjust to, rather than helping to prevent, climate change. He especially wants help to develop new crop varieties and support “emission-reducing carbon offsets, like hydro exports from B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec.”
Confusingly, Wall includes among such “emission-reducing offsets” the carbon currently “stored in Canada’s vast forests, wetlands, and farmland.” In fact, while carbon in soils and wetlands may be stable and not entering the atmosphere—although global warming is changing that—it does not contribute materially to reducing current human greenhouse gas emissions.
Wall said his province will also increase the renewable share of Crown utility Saskatchewan Power’s electricity generation to 50% by 2030.
Erin Flanagan, director of federal policy with the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, wasn’t impressed with Wall’s pitch. “Premier Wall continues to be out of step with economists and business leaders who point to carbon pricing as a foundational element of Canada’s approach to climate change,” she stated. “In reality, an economy-wide carbon price is a critical tool for Saskatchewan—and for Canada—to support private sector innovation and low-carbon economic development.”