Opinion: Scott Moe’s carbon credit stance unsalable

Emitters won’t recognize — or pay for — carbon sequestered decades ago

Scott Moe contends carbon stored by the Saskatchewan producers “should be recognized going back decades.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe continuing to believe farmers should be credited for decades-old actions demonstrates his overall reluctance to recognize the significance of climate change.

Beaten by the Supreme Court of Canada, Moe is now in the unenviable position of having to develop and introduce a carbon pricing policy.

Most of his constituents don’t want it, and the Saskatchewan government has spent what seems like decades criticizing the idea of putting a cost on carbon (this is partially why politicians opposing the policy call it a “tax” when legally it isn’t).

Now his government is in the midst of designing a policy that will put a price on carbon.

Scoring a win out of that seems like it will be difficult enough.

His government refused to bring in an adequate carbon pricing policy, arguing doing so would harm Saskatchewan people. Moe’s party, the Saskatchewan Party, has failed to put forward a single credible plan to address climate change since it formed government. Emissions continuing to rise in the province are the result.

How does Moe now bring in a policy of his own without causing the same harm?

We know Saskatchewan intends to mitigate consumers recognizing they are actually paying for pollution, doing this essentially by lowering excise taxes by a comparable amount. That mimics what New Brunswick does, and was accepted by Ottawa.

But Moe says he also intends to “maximize investment” in technologies, like zero tillage, that were pioneered in Saskatchewan decades ago.

Saskatchewan will be developing output-based carbon protocols to sell in an international market. Carbon that is already being stored, through methods like zero till, will not have any value on that market.

Still, Moe told reporters he wants farmers to be recognized for every possible pound of carbon they store.

He contends carbon stored by producers “should be recognized going back decades” and said his government is working to ensure that is the case.

“There (are) some challenges with respect to the understanding of exactly how valuable that effort has been,” he told reporters following the Supreme Court decision.

Maybe the premier is trying to give farmers something to hold on to here, but by now it should be clear to him, and everyone, that any actions to improve the climate “going back decades” have so far failed, are not enough, and, while commendable, have no value on carbon markets.

Draft regulations for Canada’s new carbon market, for example, show farmers won’t receive credit for removing any greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) prior to 2017.

To get credit under that system, removals of GHGs will have to be quantifiable and occur in a “beyond business as usual” setting.

Federal officials will likely expect Saskatchewan to meet that bar, too.

Beyond what Ottawa accepts or not, Saskatchewan’s Environment Minister Warren Kaeding rightly pointed out the carbon market will determine what has value or is acceptable.

“It has to be validated, verified. It has to be something our emitters — they’re paying for it — that they can find credibility in… ” he said.

Hopefully the premier was listening, because Moe’s ambitious goal of getting credit for producers who have previously stored carbon is unachievable, and won’t be accepted.

You don’t repair an old vehicle by patting yourself on the back for the oil change you did a few years earlier.

The great work by producers to reduce emissions thus far pales in comparison to the amount needed to achieve Saskatchewan’s, and Canada’s, climate goals.

Moe’s credibility on the environment will continue to be questioned until he recognizes this.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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