The Yukon should get serious about curbing its carbon output

Stu Clark, John Maissan and Richard Price Recently, we learned from the Climate Change Indicators report that the Yukon's climate is warming at double the national average, and includes permafrost changes and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. As citiz

COMMENTARY

by Stu Clark, John Maissan and Richard Price

Recently, we learned from the Climate Change Indicators report that the Yukon’s climate is warming at double the national average, and includes permafrost changes and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. As citizens we are wondering what we should be doing to curtail our emissions, which are driving this climate change.

While we can take action as individuals and families to conserve energy and to stop using so much fossil fuel, we would also like to see the Yukon government aspire to climate change leadership as British Columbia and Alberta have done.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in the election campaign that he intended to work with provinces and territories to come up with a national “carbon-pricing” plan. We would like to see the Yukon be an active participant.

In a recent column by economist Keith Halliday titled “Does the Yukon need a carbon tax?” (The News, Aug. 7), Halliday makes reference to comments made in May 2015 by John Streicker. Streicker described “a B.C.-style revenue-neutral carbon tax as a ‘smart tool for a serious problem that has been put off far too long.’”

Halliday goes on to comment that “the challenge will now be convincing Yukoners.” Halliday is right: we need to develop a consensus, in so far as possible, among Yukoners on how to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

We propose that the Yukon develop a public process to discuss options presented in the national discussions on carbon pricing (for example, a cap-and-trade regime or a carbon tax). The public needs to know more about the options, so that it can make good decisions for the future. The government of Yukon needs to hear from citizens and use that input in decision-making.

A good example for a successful climate change public policy process is the Alberta process implemented last fall. An independent expert panel was established and included representatives of industry and environmental organizations. The panel conducted wide-ranging consultations with citizens through online surveys, and had direct discussions with industry, environmentalists and others. The report of the panel was adopted by the Rachel Notley government and has been widely acclaimed since. The plan was also well received by Prime Minister Trudeau and by the oil sands industry.

The Yukon government is now consulting on priorities for the next budget, and we propose a public policy process line item of $100,000 to $150,000 to deal with curtailing greenhouse gases. A robust public policy process would result in a made-in-the-Yukon policy that fits our unique needs as a northern territory.

If we implemented a carbon tax of say $30/per tonne of C02 (a comparable levy to B.C. and Alberta) this would mean a levy of 6.2 cents per litre of gasoline (according to Halliday’s analysis). This levy could raise $12 million or more for the Yukon to devote to a revenue-neutral green fund to defray additional burden costs on lower income individuals, and it could also be used for public transit improvements, promoting renewable energy alternatives, providing infrastructure for electric cars, and generally developing other constructive off-fossil fuel activities and programs.

We think the time is right for Yukoners and their government to take a northern leadership role on climate change.

Stuart Clark is an engineer with 30 years experience in international experience and the environment. John Maissan is a retired engineer with 14 years of senior engineering experience in Yukon Energy and 12 years as a self-employed renewable energy consultant. Richard Price is a professor emeritus of Native Studies at the University of Alberta with a long-standing interest in indigenous issues and environmental concerns.

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