Environment Minister Pauline Frost speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on Sept. 14, unveiling the Yukon government’s updated strategy to combat climate emergency that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Climate change strategy targets 30 per cent reduction in territory greenhouse gases by 2030

The strategy includes rebates for electric vehicles but puts off mining targets for two years

The Yukon government has unveiled its updated strategy to combat the climate emergency that aims to reduce total greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent from 2010 levels.

Premier Sandy Silver, Environment Minister Pauline Frost and Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai unveiled the plan at a Sept. 14 press conference.

“Folks, in 2030 Yukon will look different. Yukon greenhouse gas emissions from key sources will be 30 per cent lower than they were in 2010,” Silver said.

“Yukoners want action on climate change and we are doing just that,” he said.

The Our Clean Future strategy states a goal to reduce total greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent compared to 2010 levels by 2030. In the long-term it also aims for the territory to have zero net emissions by 2050.

In partnership with the federal government, the Yukon government said the cost is expected to be $500 million over the next 10 years to implement the strategy.

The calculations in the 131-point plan get the territory 75 per cent of the way to the 30 per cent reduction goal and include measures such as rebates for electric cars, green energy projects and active transportation.

The majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from roads and transportation, making up 54 per cent according to the strategy.

Along with an emphasis on active transportation, the government is offering rebates for electric vehicles, including bicycles and snowmobiles. Infrastructure projects to improve charging ability are also included.

Residents able to purchase an electric vehicle can receive a rebate of $5,000. A rebate of up to $1,500 will be available for used electric vehicles and electric cargo bicycles. Zero-emission snowmobiles and motorcycles are also being incentivized.

The target is to get 4,800 zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2030.

The plan also sets that in 2030 no less than 97 per cent of the electricity on Yukon’s main electricity grid will come from renewable sources. This will come at a cost. The plan notes that electricity rates may rise.

“Constantly with Yukon Energy and Yukon Development Corporation, we’re investing in new capacity and with that, of course, comes an expense. But the commitment we have made is to work more closely and to take an approach where we can consistently give comfort to Yukoners that there are not big jumps in rates,” Pillai said.

The government said it worked closely with First Nations in the development of the strategy, and community-based renewable energy projects, including wind and solar projects in remote communities, are included in the plan.

The mining sector makes up 10 per cent of emissions, according to the report, but decisions about targets and actions on that file are being delayed until 2022. The government said it is working with the placer and quartz mining industry to identify next steps.

“When you think about the Yukon, to deconstruct mining from our economy, or to change it that dramatically is not easy work,” Pillai said.

“Over the next 24 months, we’ll continue to work. I will reach out to groups such as Yukon Conservation Society, which have always been there to give us advice and also the Yukon Chamber of Mines of course, to bring people and Yukoners together to ensure that we can reduce our intensity and still have a thriving, very important sector in our economy,” he said.

In October 2019 the government voted in the legislature to declare a “climate emergency,” a suggestion brought forward by Yukon NDP leader Kate White.

White said she supported the rebate programs for electric cars and bikes, but criticized the Our Clean Future strategy for failing to calculate a full 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases.

“It’s hard not to be cynical when months before an election, the government announces they will distribute cheques as they push back climate change action in the mining sector for two more years,” said White.

There are no safeguards in the plan to account for a change of government. An election must take place in the territory by November 2021.

“We need a new way of thinking about how we travel, a new way about how we commune together, how will you meet together as a community. Any government moving forward that doesn’t have these initiatives at the forefront will be doomed in my opinion,” Silver said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Climate changeEnvironment YukonYukon government