Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy Measures Resilience & Reduces Emissions

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Saskatchewan is a resource-based economy, with trade-exposed and emissions-intensive industries, and a large rural population that relies heavily on transportation. Saskatchewan produces 76 million tonnes of carbon equivalent emissions each year, or about 10 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. When Dustin Duncan was named Saskatchewan’s Minister of Environment in 2017, he knew the months ahead would be dedicated to developing and releasing a climate change strategy for the province. What he didn’t know, was just how innovative and wide-ranging that strategy would become.

“We wanted something that was both progressive and practical,” recalls Duncan. “As a signatory to the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which called for fair and flexible approaches to address climate change, our government recognized the opportunity to build on our existing programs and research. We developed a comprehensive strategy to address the climatic, economic and policy impacts of climate change – without harming our provincial economy.”

Thirty-three percent of Saskatchewan’s emissions are from the oil and gas sector, while 23 percent is from agriculture, 20 percent from electricity generation – which is largely from coal in Saskatchewan – and 14 percent from transportation. The remainder includes mining and other industries, waste, and buildings.

“Industry stakeholders broadly agreed that a one-size-fits-all, single stringency level or reduction target, shared equally across all sectors, would not be practical,” says Duncan. “It was important for us to design a strategy that ensured our industries remain competitive and able to operate in Saskatchewan and to reduce emissions while not placing unnecessary financial burdens on our residents – who are also business owners and employees of those industries.”

The Government of Saskatchewan released its overarching strategy, called Prairie Resilience, in December 2017. The government fulfilled many of the strategy’s commitments throughout the following year, including new legislation, regulations, and details of the individual components.

Prairie Resilience includes more than 40 commitments designed to make Saskatchewan more resilient to the effects of a changing climate. Those strategy commitments – which go beyond emissions reductions alone – span Saskatchewan’s natural systems and resources, infrastructure for electricity, transportation, homes and buildings, and community preparedness.

Sector-specific emission reductions were announced as key elements of the strategy, with annual emissions decreasing by 40 percent in electricity generation and 40 percent in upstream oil and gas vented and flared methane emissions.

Reductions will be achieved through electricity regulations and a strategy to produce up to half of Saskatchewan’s electricity through renewable energy sources by 2030. The government will also introduce new oil and gas emission management regulations to gradually reduce emissions from flaring and venting of methane – a measure that will achieve an annual reduction of 40 to 45 percent by 2025.


In addition to reductions in electricity and methane emissions, Saskatchewan is implementing output-based performance standards for large industrial emitters. The new regulations take effect in 2019 and apply to facilities that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents each year.

More than 40 facilities will be subject to the provincial performance standard, accounting for 11 percent of total provincial emissions (or approximately 8.5 million tonnes). The facilities are in Saskatchewan’s emissions-intensive and trade-exposed sectors, including pulp mills, ethanol production, iron and steel mills, mining, canola crushing, fertilizer manufacturing, refining, upgrading, and upstream oil and gas (stationary fuel combustion).

The sector-specific stringencies are expected to achieve the following emissions intensity reductions:

  • Potash, coal, and uranium mining (5 percent)
  • Iron and steel mills (5 percent)
  • Fertilizer manufacturing (5 percent)
  • Pulp mills (5 percent)
  • Ethanol production (5 percent)
  • Oilseed processing (5 percent)
  • Refining and upgrading (10 percent)
  • Upstream oil and gas – stationary combustion emissions (15 percent)

Saskatchewan’s performance standards will increase over an established schedule from 2019 to 2030, cumulatively reducing GHG emissions by 5.3 million tonnes, and achieving annual emissions intensity reductions of 10 percent from regulated sectors. Saskatchewan facilities will be able to choose from a suite of flexible compliance options including offset credits, best performance credits, and payment into a technology fund.

“This system-wide strategy is designed to responsibly and tangibly reduce emissions without an economy-wide carbon tax,” says Duncan. “Reductions in these three key areas – electricity, methane, and industrial performance standards – will lead to 12 fewer megatonnes of greenhouse gases in 2030.”


Prairie Resilience also commits the provincial government to track and report across multiple areas of focus to convey progress in making our province more resilient to climate change.

“If our 76 million tonnes of emissions per year go down to zero tomorrow, that’s not going to stop global climate change,” notes Duncan. “Climate change will still have an impact on Saskatchewan. So, what are the things that we can tangibly measure in terms of how we’re dealing with this issue? We wanted a baseline to work from, a starting point to better determine how well we are building resilience to the effects of climate change, and a means to identify areas that may need more attention.”

To meet that need, the Government of Saskatchewan released the Climate Resilience Measurement Framework in November 2018 with 25 measures in five key areas, to help measure resilience in the face of changing global climate.

Resilience is the ability to cope with, adapt to, and recover from stress and change. This includes the ability of natural systems, such as land, water and forests, and physical infrastructure to address a changing climate. It also speaks to an emphasis on economic sustainability, community preparedness, and the well-being of people to adapt and thrive in a low-carbon economy and changing environmental conditions, such as extreme weather or flooding.

“With the development and release of Prairie Resilience, we wanted a comprehensive plan for addressing climate change – a more multifaceted approach that goes beyond emissions and taxation,” says Duncan.

“One of the things we want to report and measure is the number of floodplain maps completed for communities,” adds Duncan. “How many communities have up-to-date floodplain mapping? We want to look at communities that have emergency preparedness plans. Are they up-to-date plans? Are they 20 years old? Do they not have a plan? And how many have tested those plans? It’s really good information for the public, and critical information for decision-makers.”

Other examples of specific measures in the Climate Resilience Measurement Framework include:

  • percentage of agricultural land area with a nutrient stewardship plan, which matches the right source and rate of fertilizer to the right time and place of application;
  • greenhouse gas emissions from government-owned buildings;
  • incorporation of natural forest disturbance patterns in provincial forest harvest designs; and
  • wildfire fuel management work on Crown land.

The Government of Saskatchewan will begin reporting on the Climate Resilience Measurement Framework in early 2019, with annual progress reports moving forward.


“Some believe that if you don’t have a carbon tax, you don’t have a plan for climate change,” adds Duncan. “We don’t have a carbon tax, but we absolutely do have a plan, and when you compare climate change plans across the country, ours is the broadest and most comprehensive. Saskatchewan’s strategy is about protecting people and communities as much as it is about working with industry and others to reduce emissions. Prairie Resilience is broader than a single policy such as a carbon tax and will achieve more meaningful outcomes over the long term.”

“This is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s a milestone achievement for the province, and an innovative example for the rest of the world.”

Saskatchewan’s Prairie Resilience climate change strategy is available at

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment provides science-based solutions, compliance, and mitigation measures aimed at protecting the environment, safeguarding communities and helping to ensure balanced economic growth and a better quality of life for all Saskatchewan residents.

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