Climate exchange short of cash

On the cusp of an election in which all parties are touting climate-change policies, the Northern Climate Exchange is short on funding and operating…

On the cusp of an election in which all parties are touting climate-change policies, the Northern Climate Exchange is short on funding and operating with a skeleton staff.

“We are definitely running a tight line here,” said Michael Westlake, the co-ordinator of the exchange, following a meeting about the situation Thursday.

“Our funding is severely depleted, and we have money until March 31, 2007, the new fiscal year,” he said.

In August, the climate exchange, through the Environment department, applied for “core funding” — government-speak for dedicated money — through the Northern Strategy Fund.

It had good reason: 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 officials called for proposals on how to spend the fund’s money, said former Northern Climate Exchange co-ordinator John Streicker.

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

But in August, a joint-review panel composed of two Yukon government officials and two First Nation representatives denied the application, said Westlake.

“They didn’t want to fund core operations,” he said.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to us, as we see climate change as being a very important issue, especially in light of the impacts we’ve been observing.”

The decision didn’t make sense to Streicker, who saw an increase in climate-change commitments from political parties as the group was denied money.

“As far as we know, we were the only climate change proposal put forward,” he said.

“It’s all been weird; there’s weirdness happening for sure.”

Streicker quit his post at the exchange in early September, before the funding request was rejected, he said.

When its coffers are full, with what typically is a $350,000 annual budget, the exchange employs three full-time staff and between four to six part-time workers, said Westlake.

To survive until the next fiscal year, the organization is now running on a two-person staff, with all part-time positions put “on hold,” he said.

The exchange has to await the federal government’s long-awaited climate-change plan, as well as the territorial election results before it can know its future, said Westlake.

“I’m confident that whatever party takes office, they’re definitely there to support us,” he said.

But, for the exchange to survive there needs to be money found, and fast, said Streicker.

“A lot of our funding that exists right now will end this year,” he said.

“So far, there’s nothing backing it up. I’m terribly concerned about it.

“All the parties that are running have made a commitment to it as an issue, but so far, that isn’t translating into support there.

“We haven’t been supported by the Northern Strategy yet,” he said.

The next intake will be in January or February.

Out of 76 proposals received for funding, two were related to climate change.

The exchange has been invited to re-apply for Northern Strategy funding.