Brad Wall’s government just abandoned its election promise to reduce carbon from 2007 levels by 32% by 2020. Environmental Minister Heppner said this target creates too huge a “burden on industry”, and the government is expected to adopt industry-supported intensity targets. But these just slow down the rate of growth in greenhouse gases (GHGs). As the Suzuki Foundation says, though industry reduced emission intensity by 6% from 1990-2004, emissions grew by 13%, and we urgently need major reductions to avert the climate crisis getting out of control.
The Sask Party is following Alberta, which is responsible for one-third of Canada’s emissions. Even with two billion to be spent on carbon capture, Alberta’s intensity targets could see emissions increase by 20% by 2020. Harper’s government, having also supported similarly ineffective half-measures, is now floundering over climate change policy.
How did we get into this mess? When the Chretien government signed the 1997 Kyoto Accord it promised to reduce emissions 6 % below 1990 levels by 2012. Harper’s government abandoned this, moved the benchmark from 1990 to 2006, and Canada’s emissions are now 20% above 1990 levels. We have done even worse than the U.S., which under Clinton promised to get 7% below their 1990 levels by 2012. Bush’s pro-oil administration sabotaged this and the U.S. is now 16% above 1990 emissions. Even with Obama’s quick policy turn-around, his administration is only promising to get back to 1990 levels by 2020. As one of the world’s two largest carbon emitters they simply must do better.
Sask Party politicians seem to think we live on a different planet. They likely abandoned their promised carbon reductions as an incentive to multinationals to extract heavy oil reserves in the Kindersley and Lloydminster area. Part of the plan may be to publicly back private nuclear power plants along the North Sask River to provide energy for enhanced oil recovery and perhaps export. Compare this to Europe, where many industrial countries will achieve their Kyoto targets. Germany, a world leader in renewable energy, is on target to achieve a 40% cut in emissions by 2020, and the EU is ready to enhance its overall target to 30% reductions by 2020.
Like Alberta’s Premier Stelmach, Premier Wall is living an ecological fairy tale; for, as climate scientists tell us, a 2 degree Celsius rise in global average temperature could trigger what are called positive feedback loops involving the release of even more GHGs from permafrost and the oceans. This would fundamentally change climate - creating massive deserts and forcing farming to higher altitudes. A recent report from England's Hadley Climate Centre suggests even with rapid minor cuts we are on track to a 1.7 degree C rise in temperature by 2050.
The Sask Party government erroneously promotes nuclear as “green energy”, totally ignores the potential of renewables which can effectively reduce carbon, and then abandons its own carbon reduction targets to further attract the oil industry. Its emerging energy "policy", as promoted by its Uranium Development Partnership, is to add nuclear without phasing out coal to help fuel the very oil industry that perpetuates the climate crisis.
The public is starting to realize that this not-so-fancy political footwork is playing Russian roulette with our children’s future. It looks like the grass-roots may have to pull the politicians‚ heads out of the (tar) sand.