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.
But that doesn’t mean Yukoners should have to bear the brunt of an ineffective carbon tax. 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 have implemented a light fleet vehicles purchase policy at our fleet vehicle agency that emphasizes 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 Environmental 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.
There are ways to deal with these issues 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 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.
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.
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.
Darrell Pasloski, Whitehorse