Premiers agree climate change action needed

Sask. premier outlines what his province is already doing, while territorial leaders urge southern provinces to do more

SASKATOON — Provincial challenges of the federal carbon tax notwithstanding, Canada’s premiers say climate change is a real threat and timely action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is important.

But they want the ability to deal with that threat regionally.

“Premiers agreed that provinces and territories must retain the ability to design climate change plans that reflect their distinct needs and priorities,” they said in a communiqué issued at their annual meeting in Saskatoon last week.

Host Premier Scott Moe said each jurisdiction is unique.

“There is full agreement at this table that we need to do better with our industries with respect to climate change with the emissions in our industries,” he told the closing news conference.

“I will speak to Saskatchewan specifically. In agriculture we have innovated to the point of crop agriculture being a carbon neutral industry. There is virtually nowhere else in the world, that I’m aware of, that is able to say that.”

He pointed to the province’s carbon capture and storage capability, the inclusion of more pulse crops and the development of farm equipment that can help others around the world also reduce emissions.

Moe said he and his counterparts also discussed Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which would allow international emission credit trading.

“We have zero emission wellhead sites here in Saskatchewan. We have a methane action plan that will be reducing our methane emissions in primary energy production by 45 percent by the year 2025. I’m not certain of another place in the world that has such aggressive targets,” he said.

“These certainly aren’t the words of a climate change denier.”

Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod, who held an earlier separate news conference with his Yukon colleague Sandy Silver and Joe Savikataaq from Nunavut, urged the south to do more.

“We live in a part of the world where we see daily the effects of climate change,” he said. “In our view, our emissions are minimal and we are doing our part. The rest of the world and southern Canada has to do more.”

Silver said his own riding of Klondike was facing massive forest fires as he attended the Saskatoon meeting.

“Every jurisdiction, everybody who wants to run for political parties right across this nation, they better have a succinct plan for climate change,” he said. “It’s real and the voting public will be deciding.”

Pipelines were an environmental issue on which several Premiers repeatedly said they would agree to disagree.

Quebec premier Francois Legault and British Columbia Premier John Horgan stand opposed to pipelines running through their provinces.

“For legal reasons and for political reasons, I don’t see how we can have a new pipeline on Quebec territory without the approval of Quebeckers,” Legault said.

“Right now, there’s no social acceptability for a new oil pipeline.”

He did say, however, that there is a gas pipeline that people welcome.

About 70 percent of the oil arriving in Quebec comes through an Enbridge pipeline, but Legault said residents don’t want to add to that capacity.

Asked how Quebec could accept the flow of money from Saskatchewan and Alberta through equalization thanks largely to oil but not accept the flow of oil, Legault said he isn’t proud of that and that’s why he wants to focus on creating wealth in his province.

“There are a lot more subjects on which we agree,” Legault added.

Horgan said there were “robust discussions” with different points of view.

“As you can see Jason (Alberta premier Kenney) and I have been sitting beside each other the whole time and all is well and I believe that we focused, through our discussions, on where can we make progress as a nation,” he said.

The premiers also called on Ottawa to better support the provincial and territorial governments, which are responsible for emergency management, and to support Indigenous communities facing natural disasters.

The provinces said the limited scope of current federal programs to address climate change, adaptation and disaster mitigation undermines what they can do. They called for the restoration of the lower pre-2015 threshold to access disaster financial assistance funding.

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