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Saskatoon chapter activist calls for an end to subsidies for the fossil fuel industry

Tracey MitchellCouncil of Canadians Saskatoon chapter activist Tracey Mitchell says it’s time to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Canada provides US $2.74 billion a year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. About 60 per cent of that comes from the federal government, with the rest coming from the provinces (including Saskatchewan). An additional US $2.7 billion a year is provided through Export Development Canada, which is wholly owned by the federal government. On the campaign trail this past July, Justin Trudeau vowed to fulfill a G20 pledge (that Canada signed on to in 2009) to phase-out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, but did not provide a specific timeline on when he would do so.

At a climate coalition media conference yesterday, Mitchell also stated, “I think the Saskatchewan government has to stop trying to find an easy fix or an easy way out. Carbon capture has proven disastrous here and we’ve invested a lot of money into that that could have gone into renewable energy.”

Carbon capture refers to an early technology which seeks to capture the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and then store it in underground geological formations and aquifers. It is costly, unproven, and there is the risk that the CO2 could leak from the underground storage facilities.

CBC provides the context that, “A coalition of groups in Saskatoon concerned about climate change has issued a list of issues it wants Canadian leaders to talk about at the Paris talks next week.” Mitchell spoke at the media conference alongside Mark Bigland Pritchard, who is with Climate Action Saskatoon, Bishop Don Bolen of the Saskatoon Roman Catholic Diocese, and Erica Lee, an Idle No More organizer who will also be attending the COP 21 climate talks as a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation. Lee also spoke at our annual conference in Saskatoon in 2013.

At the media conference, Mitchell noted, “Nearly twenty per cent of our emissions in Saskatchewan come from venting and flaring of waste gasses. And that’s just a total waste.” Venting is the deliberate release of methane from oil and gas installations, while flaring is the burning of methane that turns it into carbon dioxide.

Last year, Saskatoon chapter activists Burton Urquhart and Dallas New highlighted in a Saskatoon Star-Phoenix op-ed that, “Saskatchewan has the dubious distinction of having the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases of any province.” They called on Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall to eliminate or dramatically reduce these emissions.

The Saskatoon chapter will be participating in the 100% possible march in their community this Nov. 29. In total, 32 Council of Canadians chapters across the country will be taking part in that day of action. It is intended to urge strong climate action at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris and to say that a 100 per cent clean economy is both possible and necessary by 2050.

For more on our energy and climate justice campaign, please click here.

Further reading
Saskatoon chapter calls for an end to methane venting and flaring (Dec. 1, 2014)

Photo: Saskatoon chapter activist Tracey Mitchell.