Climate change best dealt with through adaptation, not emission targets, says Fentie

The Yukon has no interested in a “cap-and-trade” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that four provinces have agreed to work on…

The Yukon has no interested in a “cap-and-trade” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that four provinces have agreed to work on following a first minister’s meeting, said Premier Dennis Fentie.

The government must figure out how to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are physically and visibly changing the Yukon, he said in a media conference call from Vancouver.

Insect infestation, infrastructure degradation and species migration are major changes underway or coming in the near future because of climate change, said Fentie.

“Our approach to dealing climate change must be an integrated approach of mitigation and adaptation,” he said.

The Yukon emits fewer greenhouse gasses per capita than the rest of Canada, but feels more impacts from climate change than other jurisdictions, according the territory’s environment department.

Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba are having talks to establish a cap and trade system to control greenhouse gas emission, according to several media reports.

The system set limits on emissions from companies, which could buy credits from polluters if they exceed the cap.

The Yukon would not benefit from the plan, said Fentie.

“The issue of cap-and-trade has been out there for quite some time and our discussions weren’t centred on that kind of initiative; they were centred on adaptation and developing national ways to deal with climate change,” he said.

“There are differences in every province and territory on the impacts of global warming and how that relates to what each jurisdiction might be doing or not doing. We have to find ways to integrate our approaches.”

Fentie is in Vancouver for meetings with the Council of the Federation, a group of territorial and provincial premiers, on climate change and economic issues. He also put in an appearance at the Cordilleran Mining Roundup industry expo.

He returns Thursday after more meetings, including a visit to the Japanese consulate with Yukon business leaders.

The Yukon is reducing dependency on diesel for electrical production by switching to hydropower. About 90 per cent of Yukon’s electricity will eventually come from hydropower, added Fentie.

Emission targets and pollution levies, which Alberta will start issuing this month, are ideas other provinces are using to combat climate changes.

The Yukon’s small emission output in comparison to provinces would make targets useless, said Fentie.

“I don’t know how you set a target at .01 per cent emissions — that’s an easy target to hit — so our approach is to do everything we can to reduce emissions and integrating that work with adaptation,” he said.

In 2004, the Yukon released 16 tonnes of greenhouse gasses per capita, about seven tonnes less than the Canadian average.

Since 1948, the average temperature in the Yukon has risen 2 Celsius, compared to the Canadian average of 0.1 Celsius.

Adaptation issues include deteriorating infrastructure, migrating species — on land and in water — or invasive species that adversely affect the environment.

There’s a tremendous infrastructure cost to climate change, and subsistence lifestyles could be affected, too, said Fentie.

“People who depend everyday on wildlife are finding that they are not that able to find and harvest the wildlife,” said Fentie.

At the meeting, the premiers recounted how climate change is affecting each of their provinces or territories and how they are adapting.

The premiers also agreed to plant more trees and conserve more water.

The Yukon is set for another busy year of mining activity if industry maintains its enthusiasm for the territory’s non-renewable resources, said Fentie about his meeting with mining executives.

 “The Yukon has a tremendous amount of resource potential and certainly industry and the investment community recognizes that,” said Fentie.

“We have progressed a great deal with our regulatory regime and we indicated clearly we’re extremely appreciative and excited about the growth and investment for the Yukon’s mining sector.”

The territory has seen one of the largest increases in exploration spending in Canada, he added.

Not everyone feels the same enthusiasm.

Chief Liard McMillan of the Liard First Nation revealed his plans to take his economic concerns directly to the mining industry in Vancouver.

“Many companies are doing business on our lands but few are taking the appropriate time to consult with us properly in advance of exploration and development activities,” McMillan said in a news release on Thursday.

He is demanding more compensation from mining companies operating on the First Nation’s traditional territory.

“I spoke to Liard McMillan and he didn’t have any concerns, I can tell you that,” said Fentie.

“Liard First Nation was well represented and is working on business relationships within industry and I think genuinely we’re exited and progress being made.”