A made-in-Yukon approach to climate action

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, July 29, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

No one needs to remind anyone in Yukon or the North that climate change is real – it has changed our day-to-day lives more than anywhere in Canada. Our winters are shorter; invasive species like the pine beetle are now present in the territory; changes to our waterways are affecting water and energy systems, fish habitat and traditional ways of life; and our risk of catastrophic forest fires is increasing.

We are already paying the cost of adapting to our changing climate as melting permafrost damages roads, schools and other infrastructure. Last year, we spent $2.04 million to repair the Ross River School because of structural damage caused by shifting ground. We have also spent millions of dollars over the past five years to repair frost heaves in roads, which are caused in part by melting permafrost.

But that doesn’t mean Yukoners should have to bear the brunt of an ineffective carbon tax. And those advocating for what is effectively a new consumption tax need to stop suggesting that it will miraculously alter Yukon’s carbon emissions. Because it won’t.

We live in a diverse country and our response to climate change should reflect this diversity. Yukoners are already doing more than our part to take action. We are in an enviable position compared to other jurisdictions: 95 per cent of Yukon’s electricity is generated by green sources.

We are also one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that is actually Kyoto-compliant. We kept the promises we made in the 1990s in regard to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s how Yukoners and Canadians can be assured we’ll keep our promises now.

We have already made a concerted effort to reduce use of carbon, and we’ll continue to find made-in-Yukon ways to address climate challenges.

We have implemented a light fleet vehicles purchase policy at our Fleet Vehicle Agency that emphasises environmental stewardship.

We are performing energy audits on specific buildings to identify how performance can be improved through energy efficient retrofits.

We committed that all Yukon government construction and renovations will meet or exceed the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Certified Standard for energy efficiency.

We are partnering with the Kluane First Nation to build wind turbines to power their community, and we extended the Mayo-Stewart transmission line to link the hydroelectric grid and eliminate 30,000 tonnes of carbon annually from our emissions by taking Pelly Crossing off diesel.

We know that we are facing real challenges as a result of climate change, and we are working to address those challenges with concrete investments. We know there are ways to deal with these issues that focus on adapting to a new reality without burdening Yukoners with taxes they cannot afford.

As a result, I cannot support politicians from other parts of the country, where the issues and the solutions are significantly different, imposing a national carbon tax on Yukoners. The emissions from Yukon are not the cause of the world’s climate issues. But we are facing the brunt of the damage.

The reality is that Yukon’s highest carbon emissions come from heating homes, and transporting food and goods to our territory. We can’t stop heating homes in the winter and we can’t suddenly grow and manufacture everything we need to live here. We don’t have easy choices or options, so a tax on carbon here is not the solution.

In Yukon, a carbon tax will mean only one thing – more money taken out of the pockets of Yukoners and families, who are already working hard to make ends meet. I cannot support making their lives more expensive to satisfy the promises of politicians who are trying to fix problems in other parts of the country.

As Premier of Yukon, I will ensure we continue to do our part to take action against climate change. We are planning a Next Generation Hydro project, recently expanded to include the consideration of smaller hydroelectric sites and other forms of renewable energy. We are retrofitting the main Yukon government administration building to reduce our emissions by 425 tonnes of carbon annually. And, we will announce further action in our election platform.

My job is to ensure that I put the interests of Yukoners first. We will work with any government to make that happen. We recently announced a joint federal/Yukon investment of $78 million in critical infrastructure across the territory, including bridges, roads, wastewater and drinking water projects. This will mean that we will be able to continue to invest in our economy at a time when it’s important to keep Yukoners working and to prepare us for the upswing in commodity markets.

But the Yukon Party isn’t bound to the promises of any federal party, and there will be times when we will respectfully disagree with our federal and provincial counterparts.

We are already leaders when it comes to cutting our carbon emissions here in Yukon. Let’s keep pursuing a made-in-Yukon approach that continues to combat climate change, but doesn’t take more money out of the wallets of Yukoners.