Climate ExChange gets funding

The Yukon Party government has rescued the Northern Climate ExChange from running out of money. “We’re just in the process of putting…

The Yukon Party government has rescued the Northern Climate ExChange from running out of money.

“We’re just in the process of putting together funding agreements and working on a path forward,” said ExChange co-ordinator Michael Westlake in a recent interview.

The Yukon government has provided funding extensions for the ExChange, which has survived on both territorial and federal dollars since it was created as an independent source of information on climate change in 2000.

The Yukon government is currently putting the finishing touches on a new a contribution agreement — and the feds appear to be following suit, said Westlake.

“We’re still in the process in working out federal agreements, but based on the reaction in the last couple of weeks, I’ve just been told to sit back and let it happen,” he said.

The ExChange’s situation was far different on the cusp of the territorial election last fall.

During the campaign, the News learned the group was short on funding and running on a skeleton staff.

“We are definitely running a tight line here,” said Westlake at the time. “Our funding is severely depleted, and we have money until March 31, 2007, the new fiscal year.”

Climate change became a key issue during the campaign, with all three parties touting green policies contained in their platforms.

At the time, the Northern Climate ExChange’s funding woes were a thorn in the side of the incumbent Yukon Party government seeking re-election.

Just before the territorial campaign began, in August, the ExChange had applied for “core funding” — government-speak for dedicated money — through the Northern Strategy Fund.

Created by the former federal Liberal government in December 2004, the $40-million fund lists climate change programs as one of its main objectives.

The Northern Climate ExChange is even named in some of the fund’s documentation.

The request came after Yukon government officials asked for proposals on how to spend the fund’s money, said former Northern Climate Exchange co-ordinator John Streicker, in a previous interview.

“The application was developed with the approval of the department of Environment and Energy, Mines and Resources,” said Streicker at the time.

But in August, a review panel at the Yukon Forum held between Fentie and First Nations leaders, denied that application.

Another round of funding through the Yukon Forum concluded in December, but again, the ExChange didn’t receive money.

After the election in October, the ExChange went underground and could not be reached for updates on its financial situation.

Nothing was said about the ExChange until February, when Fentie issued a press release.

“I will be talking about our interest in pursuing a partnership with the federal government to develop the climate change research centre of excellence and the cold climate technology and innovation centre in Yukon, and the ongoing funding needs for the Northern Climate Exchange,” said Fentie in the release.

Then came another long period of silence that extended beyond the end of the fiscal year on March 31.

But everything is now fine, said Westlake.

The centre has retained its two full-time staff members and its part-time staff, he said.

And there are no worries about money in the future.

“Not at this particular point. Obviously when you’re working out agreements, things can change,” said Westlake.