An appropriate question to ask at this time of the year is, “Where are we going?” In the days following the COP21 Conference on Climate Change and Premier Darrell Pasloski’s vague comments voicing concern for poorer nations, we should be demanding more action from our government. Words without action are just hollow rhetoric.
Here are three specific actions our government can commit to right now:
1. For every dollar the Yukon government allocates toward finding “energy solutions” (i.e. ways of reducing energy consumption), they spend three dollars on their oil and gas department encouraging and wooing oil and gas companies to invest here. As COP21 made 100 per cent clear, keeping the global temperature rise below two degrees (above which there will be even more catastrophic effects) is absolutely essential. To have any hope of staying below that temperature, untapped oil and gas must remain in the ground.
Yukon cannot divorce itself from this reality or its responsibility to do its part. The government should re-allocate funding entirely toward energy solutions.
2. By solutions we also mean a serious commitment – that is, funds and personnel – to the development of renewable energy such as micro hydro, biomass, wind, solar etc. Not only would these have a dramatically smaller impact on our environment and not endanger our water, they would generate jobs now and for the future.
3. Abandon the diversionary strategy of massive hydro. The government’s emphasis on a massive hydro project, with an estimated cost well in excess of a billion dollars, represents yet another instance of an oversized capital expenditure that would presumably be added to Yukon Energy’s already substantial debt, burdening ratepayers and taxpayers now and well into the future. Given First Nations’ resistance to massive hydro and its attendant devastation of a vast tract of territory and impacts on fish and wildlife, this notion is a non-starter and a waste of time and money.
Instead of being fossilized by an intransigence to old solutions and continuing down the road signposted “oil and gas,” the Yukon government can, and should, change direction. Make the move to renewable energy so we don’t need to ask “Where are we going?” Help the Yukon ensure that all of the planet has a future. As was said at COP21, there is no planet B.