About climate change
Climate change is a long-term shift in weather patterns. Since the industrial age, the burning of fossil fuels has resulted in increased concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in our atmosphere. These emissions are some of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to increasing global temperatures.
Countries are coming together to recognize that human activity and industry contribute to an increasing concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere and are adopting various strategies to deal with the implications of climate change.
Saskatchewan acknowledges the science-based reality of climate change and joined other provinces and the Government of Canada at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris in December 2015. An international agreement involving 195 countries was struck with a plan to limit climate-related increases in temperature to two degrees Celsius through continued GHG reductions. Canada’s stated goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
What is Saskatchewan doing?
In October 2016, the Government of Saskatchewan provided direction in the Saskatchewan White Paper on Climate Change. This white paper emphasized that effective approaches to GHG mitigation stem from technological innovation. Further, efforts must be made to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Taken together, both approaches form a practical long-term strategy for managing this issue and balancing environmental and economic goals.
- Saskatchewan is working on reducing its GHG emissions. SaskPower deployed carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at its Boundary Dam Power Station south of Estevan, which is designed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of power production by up to a million tonnes annually. Since it began operations in October 2014, the process has captured more than 1.5 million tonnes of CO2; that’s the equivalent of 350,000 vehicles taken off Saskatchewan roads. This technology can be applied to other countries, such as China and India, which are heavily dependent upon coal-fired electricity generation. Thousands of coal plants are in development around the world, and dozens of countries are evaluating various CCS technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of their power production.
- SaskPower has also committed to increasing its target for renewable-energy generation capacity from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030. This will reduce GHG emissions by approximately 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This ambitious goal will be achieved by a major expansion in wind power, augmented by other renewable-energy sources (i.e., solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro, and demand-side management) along with a greater emphasis on natural-gas generation as the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Although our footprint is relatively small, at 0.2 per cent of world emissions, we have chosen to be leaders in one of the main GHG abatement technologies used to address this problem.
- Work is also being done to explore how reductions in GHGs might be achieved in the oil and gas industry, another large contributor to Saskatchewan’s GHG emissions. Finding a balance between substantive reductions and the viability of industries that are critical to the wellbeing of Saskatchewan residents remains a priority.
- The capacity of the province to absorb carbon, through agriculture and forest land management practices or by other means, plays an important part in balancing GHG-emitting activities. Understanding ways in which carbon can be stored, and encouraging those practices, is key to successful carbon reduction goals.
- Finally, given the small amount of GHG emissions Saskatchewan produces relative to the world, adaptive measures are also necessary to prepare for changing climatic conditions. Taking action to improve infrastructure in the event of more severe floods, fires and other climatic extremes is critical.