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Mr. Moe's carbon tax bait-and-switch

April 5, 2019

2-minute read

If there was any silver lining for those concerned with climate change in yesterday's carbon tax/monster truck rally that rolled through Regina, it was the degree to which Premier Scott Moe and even some of the demonstrators went out of their way to concede the realities of climate change and the need to address them.

In the lead-up to the rally on Wednesday, Mr. Moe wrote: "Our government believes we need to take meaningful action to combat man-made climate change. But a carbon tax doesn’t do that."

Similarly, addressing the demonstrators yesterday, Mr. Moe stated: “In Saskatchewan, we accept that climate change is happening and we even accept that humans are contributing to that. What we don’t accept is that a carbon tax is in any way an effective way to actually deal with that” [emphasis added].

Identifying the most effective ways of reducing our GHG emissions in Saskatchewan would actually be a useful debate. Certainly, there are legitimate arguments against the efficacy of a carbon tax, particularly if it is the sole policy response to carbon mitigation. However, whenever pressed on what his government would do to address climate change in lieu of a carbon tax, Mr. Moe immediately pivots to his Prairie Resilience plan: "Our own comprehensive, innovative climate change plan," as he characterizes it. Unfortunately, the government too often gets away with gesturing toward the plan without any actual interrogation of it.

So, what would meaningful climate action in Saskatchewan look like? And does this plan resemble it?

This shouldn't be difficult to deduce: it's simple math. Where are our GHG emissions right now, and where do they need to be?

Saskatchewan currently produces about 75 to 76 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Since 2005, our emissions have increased by 11%, or 7 megatonnes.

To reach the Paris targets of cutting emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, Saskatchewan needs to reduce its emission output to 48 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030.

To reach the revised IPCC targets of 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, Saskatchewan would need to reduce its GHG emission output to 38 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030.

What does Mr. Moe's Prairie Resilience promise? If you set aside the wishful thinking that the federal government will grant us 12.5 million tonnes of carbon credits for carbon sequestering agricultural practices but won't knock us for carbon-producing agricultural practicesthe plan gets us a reduction to 61 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030. Obviously, this is nowhere near where we need to be and cannot be characterized as "meaningful climate action" by any measure.

It may very well be that the federal carbon tax as currently constituted is an ineffective means to adequately address climate change. But the Saskatchewan government's plan appears equally ineffective at getting us to where we need to be.

Many of us would welcome a robust debate on what meaningful climate action should actually look like in Saskatchewan. But it appears the debate Mr. Moe would prefer is over whose half-measures are more half-baked.

Simon Enoch is Director of the Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

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