Saskatoon emissions reduction targets in jeopardy of not being reached

Targets set by the City of Saskatoon for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are in danger of not being reached, according to a progress report on climate action initiatives.

The report from city administration says emissions goals are set at reducing corporate emissions by 40 per cent and community emissions by 15 per cent by 2023, leading to an 80 per cent reduction in 2050 compared to 2014 levels.

“The status of the emissions reporting and the LEC progress indicates that while progress is being made in some environmental sectors, 2023 GHG emissions reduction targets are at risk of not being reached,” the report reads.

It adds the 80 per cent reduction target can still be achieved if actions outlined in the Low Emissions Community (LEC) plan are fully implemented according to the recommended timeline.

“The City has many important priorities that compete for resources on an annual basis. The Administration will continue to bring forward projects that support our environmental goals during the annual business plan and budget process. Any actions in the plan that cannot proceed for any reason will be replaced with new, comparable Actions when the LEC Plan is refreshed, which is planned in 2025,” says the report.

The report says from 2014 to 2019, Saskatoon’s Community GHG emissions fell by two per cent. But analysis shows the drop is mostly due to improved accuracy of data, rather than reductions in activities that generate emissions.

It says absolute emissions have remained relatively constant over the five-year period – but despite an increase in Saskatoon’s population, per capita emissions have decreased by 15 per cent.

“This indicates that community actions are influencing the rate at which we generate emissions, but not enough to impact the targeted absolute emissions,” the report says.

It outlines various community-focused initiatives in the LEC which progressed in 2020. Those initiatives include the Home Energy Loan Program for energy efficiency, cycling and sidewalk improvements, SaskPower Energy Assistance Program, a long-term water conservation strategy under development and the finalized solid waste reduction and diversion plan.

Actions regarding corporate emissions from the city include replacing street lights with LED fixtures, four electric vehicles for the city’s fleet, electric bus pilot project and a solar assessment for up to eight civic facilities.

The report also reveals areas with little to no near-term progress including improving energy use and thermal energy demand for new residential buildings and developing a commercial and industrial energy and renewables financing program.

The progress report identifies funding as a potential barrier to implementing the LEC plan.

There are also social barriers regarding a smaller uptake in sustainability initiatives by lower income households. It says the city must consider the various impacts on all social groups.

The report is on the agenda for the next Environment, Utilities and Corporate Services Committee meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.