Yukon’s premier has come out swinging against federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s promise to put a price on carbon pollution.
“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,” said Premier Darrell Pasloski in an interview Thursday.
Trudeau’s plan is to set national targets and work with provinces and territories individually to ensure they put the policies in place to help achieve them.
“As it stands, the provinces and territories have their own carbon reduction targets, which added together are very similar to the targets that the prime minister committed Canada to,” Trudeau said in the announcement last week.
“But as I mentioned, we’re not collectively on track to meet those targets - not even close.”
An auditor general’s report from this past fall confirmed that the federal government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not working.
“In 2012, we concluded that the federal regulatory approach was unlikely to lead to emission reductions sufficient to meet the 2020 Copenhagen target,” according to the report summary. That goal is to reduce emissions levels by 17 per cent in 2020 compared with 2005.
“Two years later, the evidence is stronger that the growth in emissions will not be reversed in time and that the target will be missed.”
Pasloski said that the Yukon is doing its part to combat climate change. He pointed to investments in the Yukon Research Centre and the territory’s hydro projects.
When asked if actions had had a measurable impact, he referred the question to the government’s climate change action plan.
When asked if the government is prepared to set targets and enact policies to achieve them, he said the same.
At that point in the conversation, just four minutes in, the premier’s executive assistant stepped in and said Pasloski had run out of time to talk.
The Yukon government has not set a target for territory-wide emissions reductions.
In 2009 it set a goal of doing so within two years. But in 2012 it concluded that predicting the territory’s future industrial and economic growth is not possible.
“Rather than commit to an arbitrary target based on estimated projections of Yukon’s economic growth, the government is working with key players in the electricity, building and energy efficiency, industrial, and transportation sectors to identify actions that will lead to realistic and measurable outcomes to minimize growth in Yukon’s overall GHG emissions,” according to the 2012 progress report on the climate change action plan.
The government has set a target for emissions reductions related to its own internal operations.
The goal is to reduce emissions by 20 per cent in 2015 compared to 2010 levels.
Yukon government operations accounted for about 10 per cent of the territory’s greenhouse gas output in 2012.
That benchmark level was 41.6 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The next year, emissions went up to 42.3 kilotonnes, and in 2012 they went down to 40.7.
The 2013 levels are expected to be available next month, an official with Yukon Environment confirmed.
In two years, the government managed to reduce the emissions of its internal operations by just two per cent, leaving an 18 per cent reduction to achieve in three years.
Pasloski called on Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver to clarify his position on Trudeau’s federal policy.
“Mr. Pasloski is warming up to being an opposition leader by asking questions of other leaders of other parties,” Silver said in an interview Thursday.
“I think he should spend a lot more time governing and a lot less time following Justin on Twitter.”
Silver said the Yukon Liberals do not support a carbon tax for the Yukon.
Trudeau’s plan would not require the provinces and territory’s to implement carbon prices, only work with those who choose to do so, he said.
However, Trudeau’s own remarks suggest that this is not the case.
“We will set a national standard in partnership with provinces and territories, one that gives them the flexibility to design their own policies to achieve those targets, including their own carbon pricing policies,” Trudeau said in the announcement.
It’s unclear at this point how much special consideration would be given to territories, given the disproportionate burden northern residents and industries would feel under a carbon tax regime.
Silver said a Yukon Liberal government would work to reduce the territory’s impact on climate change, but that details on a plan won’t come out until the next election campaign.
“We would definitely want to move forward in a manner where we reduce our carbon footprint.”
Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University and leading expert on climate change policy, said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires either a price on carbon or regulations on technologies and fuels.
“If politicians are unwilling to admit this, then they are lying when they say they want us to do our part on climate change. They are not being honest. We need honest politicians,” he wrote in an email.
“If you took the 100 leading climate-energy economists in the world, they would all tell you that a price on carbon is the best way - in terms of the economy - of achieving Harper’s promise.”
Evidence shows that carbon pricing can be used to reduce other taxes that hurt economic growth, said Jaccard.
“But it sounds like the Yukon Party is not interested in unbiased evidence.”
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