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Saskatchewan defies Canada's feds with climate change plan that omits carbon tax

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Saskatchewan defies Canada's feds with climate change plan that omits carbon tax

Saskatchewan defied a Canadian government edict to impose a levy on greenhouse gas emissions, opting instead to introduce a plan that would encourage pollution reduction through the purchase of offset credits and other mitigation measures.

Under the program announced Dec. 4, Saskatchewan would offer "flexible compliance options" for industries to achieve emissions-reductions goals. The options could include voluntarily reducing emissions intensity, paying into a technology fund or using market mechanisms that meet international standards. The pending legislation would reaffirm government-owned electric utility SaskPower's plan to have 50% of the province's generating capacity in renewables by 2030 and reduce fleetwide emissions by 40% by then.

Saskatchewan, like neighboring Manitoba, has defied an order by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to introduce a provincial tax on emissions by 2022 or face a C$50/tonne federal levy. The two provinces' right-leaning governments claim their federal counterparts are intruding on provincial jurisdiction.

"This plan is broader and bolder than a single policy such as a carbon tax and will achieve better and more meaningful outcomes over the long term," Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said in a statement announcing the program. "Our climate change strategy recognizes the investment and innovation that has taken place and sets out the road map for future actions. This is about protecting our people and communities as much as it is about working with industry and others to reduce emissions here in Saskatchewan."

Saskatchewan's government said separately Dec. 6 that it would attempt to reach an equivalency agreement with Canada's government to keep its coal-fired power plants operating beyond a federally mandated shutdown in 2030 or when existing licenses expire. While the federal government has signed the same kind of agreements with isolated provinces in eastern Canada that rely on coal and oil for power and started negotiations with Saskatchewan in 2016, little progress has been made since. Saskatchewan derives much of its power from plants located in coalfields near the Canada-U.S. border at North Dakota.

The province has proposed regulations that would see emissions targets measured on a fleetwide basis at SaskPower, instead of the unit-by-unit standard required by the federal government. The province claims it would be able to outperform federal standards if it is allowed to apply projects such as its Boundary Dam carbon capture project and renewables projects across its entire generating fleet.

"The act and regulations are fundamental to the province's climate change strategy," Duncan said in a Dec. 6 statement. "These regulations are the next step for the province to complete an equivalency agreement to provincially regulate electricity emissions."