Saskatchewan’s conservative government has unveiled a climate plan that champions carbon capture and storage and nuclear power as an alternative to the federal government’s recently announced ultimatum to the provinces that they introduce some form carbon pricing.
The document, released by Premier Brad Wall on Tuesday, argues against both carbon taxation and cap and trade, the two policy options Ottawa told the provinces this month that they must choose between to achieve a carbon price of $50 a tonne by 2022.
“Nuclear and new technology that dramatically reduces coal-fired emissions to a standard cleaner than natural gas is Canada’s answer to climate change,” the white paper argues, “not a carbon tax that appears to do little to reduce GHG emissions.”
Saskatchewan wants the federal government to redeploy $2.65 billion that has been committed for financing clean energy projects in the developing world to a $2 billion clean innovation fund that Ottawa announced in February. The province says the money should go to research and development of clean technology, again with an emphasis on CCS and small modular nuclear reactors—a design favoured by some because it is much smaller than conventional reactors and therefore more scalable, cheaper to manufacture, and also suitable for remote regions.
The province is home to the world’s only commercial-scale CCS plant, at Boundary Dam, but it has been beset with teething problems, in particular not achieving the scale of emissions capture that had been promised. Wall said that successful commercialisation of CCS is necessary as there are 2,400 new coal fired power plants being planned or under construction around the world.
The plan also highlights the province’s already announced target of achieving 50 percent of electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030, and calls on the federal government to double funding for adaptation to climate change, with particular emphasis on its effects on northern communities.
The 54-page document at times reads less like other provinces’ climate strategies filled with technical details and more a fiery political polemic against carbon taxes and emissions trading. It quotes Simon Fraser University sustainable energy researcher Mark Jaccard to suggest that British Columbia’s carbon tax has not reduced projected emissions as much as BC’s decision to cancel two coal plants and Ontario’s shuttering of its coal-fired generating stations.
The paper also quotes the researcher to say that 90 percent of California’s emissions reduction has come from regulations on industry, electricity, transport, appliances and buildings, not its carbon trading scheme. The document argues that cap-and-trade schemes as embraced by the California, as well as Quebec, Ontario and the European Union, show a pattern of low carbon prices that are insufficient on their own to drive decarbonization.
Meanwhile, the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, criticised the plan, saying as “obstructing discussions on policy options” and said that Premier Wall is “out of step” with market-oriented green groups like Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and business groups such as Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition and Smart Prosperity that support a price on carbon.
The Climate Examiner speaks to BC-based Carbon Engineering about the technology, the business and the policies that could make direct air capture, synfuels and carbon sequestration work.