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New Yukon climate report promised on eve of Paris talks

Environment Minister Wade Istchenko has promised that a progress report on the Yukon's 2009 climate change action plan will be ready in time for the Paris climate talks beginning on Monday.

Environment Minister Wade Istchenko has promised that a progress report on the Yukon’s 2009 climate change action plan will be ready in time for the Paris climate talks beginning on Monday.

In the legislative assembly on Thursday, Istchenko said the report “will have all kinds of data and numbers.”

The announcement came in response to a question from NDP MLA Kate White, who has been pressing the government for information about the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions and targets.

To date, the Yukon government has not set a target for territory-wide emissions reductions, and has not released emissions data for any year since 2012.

It has set a target for its own internal operations, which is to reduce emissions by 20 per cent from 2010 levels by 2015. But it has not said whether it has any hope of meeting that target. As of 2012, internal emissions had only dropped by two per cent.

“While every other jurisdiction in Canada is taking meaningful action on climate change, our premier and his government are refusing to listen to Yukoners and take action of our own,” White said in the assembly on Thursday.

Last week, White also brought up the fact that in past years, the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions have been vastly underreported.

She pointed to an updated report from Research Northwest, published in March, which found that actual Yukon emissions were an average of 75 per cent higher than what was officially reported between 2009 and 2012.

“If emissions are underreported across all sectors, it means Yukon’s carbon footprint is unknown and there is no way to track our progress on reducing our very own emissions,” White told the assembly.

The problem is that official emissions estimates have traditionally come from Environment Canada’s national inventory report, which relies on national data.

But those data don’t take into account imported fuel from Alaska and Alberta, which are responsible for a significant part of the territory’s emissions.

The Research Northwest report also provides what may be the only published estimate of total Yukon emissions for 2013, which it pegs at 586 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, down from 639 kilotonnes in 2012. That figure has not been confirmed by the government.

Environment Canada has also released its 2015 national inventory report, which includes emissions estimates up to 2013. It calculates that Yukon emitted 358 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, significantly less than the 586 kilotonnes reported by Research Northwest.

Kirsten Burrows, a senior analyst with the Yukon climate change secretariat, said the government has decided it will no longer use the national estimates, and is developing its own method of calculating emissions.

She said the new method will include more reliable data from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Finance, Highways and Public Works and Statistics Canada.

Burrows wouldn’t say exactly when the government will release updated emissions reports, but said she hopes emissions data will be regularly updated once the new method is finalized.

“We’re in the process of determining when we’re going to be updating and publishing these made-in-Yukon emissions reports.”

The focus on emissions comes on the heels of Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski’s trip to Ottawa for the first ministers’ meeting earlier this week, where climate change was a major focus.

In an interview with the News on Wednesday, Pasloski said provincial and territorial leaders have forged “a new relationship” with the federal government ahead of the Paris conference.

But it’s unclear to what extent Pasloski is willing to work with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a national climate change strategy.

“I think what the prime minister talked about and what he recognizes is that Canada is a very diverse country,” Pasloski said. “And that we can have diverse policy on climate and still reach our goals.”

Trudeau has been vague about what Canada’s response to climate change will look like under a Liberal government. But he has said he’ll develop emissions reduction targets within 90 days of the Paris conference, and that the provinces and territories will be able to create their own carbon pricing policies to meet those targets.

In the past, Pasloski has spoken out strongly against the Liberal plan to put a price on carbon.

“We can’t really support at all a concept of a mandatory carbon pricing that’s being suggested by the federal Liberal leader, because the consumption of fossil fuels is certainly not a luxury in the North, it’s a necessity,” he told the News in February.

This week, he more or less stood by his earlier statement.

“I think that that’s a valid comment,” he said. “The North is an expensive place to live already.”

Pasloski said Canada produces only two per cent of global carbon emissions, while the Yukon produces only one per cent of Canadian emissions.

He also pointed out that most of the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, which is “how we bring most of our goods and services to Yukon.”

“And I would also say that all of those trucks that roll into Yukon that come through British Columbia are all paying a carbon tax for their fuel in British Columbia already.”

British Columbia currently has a province-wide carbon tax of $30 per tonne. On Sunday, Alberta announced its own carbon tax, which will reach $30 per tonne in 2018. Quebec has a cap-and-trade system, and Ontario plans to implement its own cap-and-trade system that will link to Quebec’s.

Contact Maura Forrest at