Ranj Pillai, minister of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, speaks to media with Pauline Frost, minister of Environment, about the Yukon’s climate strategy in Whitehorse on Nov. 14. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

YG releases ‘ambitious’ plan to combat climate change

It calls for lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030

Central to the Yukon government’s new draft climate change strategy is axing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

“This is a really ambitious target, in line with what other jurisdictions are doing in southern Canada, as well as the level of emissions reduction that is needed to keep global warming to safe levels,” said Aletta Leitch, senior project manager of the Yukon government’s Climate Change Secretariat. “It’s also a target we are confident we can achieve.”

The strategy, which was unveiled on Nov. 14, is comprised of four goals: ramping up power derived from renewable energy sources, adapting to climate change, developing a green economy and lowering emissions.

The goal is to reduce Yukon’s emissions by 30 per cent compared to 2010 numbers.

Leaving things at the status quo means that, by 2030, 202 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are on track to being removed from the atmosphere. Sixty-two additional kilotonnes would be taken out as a result of implementation, the strategy says.

Changes will be carried out over a 10-year period. It will be revised every three or four years until 2030. The strategy was developed in collaboration with Yukon First Nations, municipalities and trans-boundary Indigenous groups.

“It has been and continues to be a priority for our government to lead in the global shift to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build a greener economy and fuel our lives with clean, reliable energy,” said Environment Minister Pauline Frost.

There are many moving parts: 142 actions built into 26 objectives that target things like transportation, buildings and energy production. Together, they will reduce the output of emissions, officials say.

Plans could change as the consultation process continues (Yukoners have until Jan. 17 to submit comments.)

“While Yukon’s total greenhouse gas emissions are relatively low because of our small population (0.1 per cent of Canada’s emissions), our per person emissions of around 18 tonnes per person are the sixth highest in Canada and higher than many other countries,” the strategy says.

Transportation in this territory makes up the lion’s share of emissions, accounting for 62 per cent of them, the strategy says.

“Close to 90 per cent of transportation emissions come from road transportation, with a relatively equal split between personal vehicles and commercial and industrial vehicles,” it says. “The remaining transportation emissions are from aviation.”

To combat this, zero emission vehicles, among other things, will be introduced — 6,000 of them during the 10-year timeframe. Ten per cent of light duty vehicle sales will occur in 2025, 30 per cent in 2030.

Another major plank deals with ensuring that 93 per cent of power is derived from renewable energy sources, all the while balancing demand due to a growing population.

“This truly is our clean future,” said Ranj Pillai, minister of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. “The more we work together the stronger our commitment and actions will be,” adding that work to transition the Yukon towards a green economy is already underway.

“This is an extremely robust strategy.”

He said discussions among industry players will occur over the next few months in order to set intensity-based targets, the goal being to reduce emissions for mines during their life cycles. It will be gauged per unit (kilogram or kilotonne) produced.

“This intensity-based target will encourage industry to look for innovative ways to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for mining, regardless of how many or few mines are in operation at any time,” he said.

A separate approach for mining was done because the sector’s propensity to boom and bust, Leitch said.

“An intensity-based target means we’ll work to make mining more efficient, regardless of how many mines are in operation or how few,” she said.

Other priorities include reducing reliance on diesel fuel in off-grid communities by 30 per cent; 40 per cent of energy used for heating purposes will come from renewable energy sources (right now, 26 per cent of heat Yukoners use comes from renewables.)

“All communities will be highly resilient to the impacts of climate change by 2030,” the strategy says.

To do this, communities will take on low-carbon designs, be better prepared for natural disasters and be able to source food locally.

Retrofitting homes is another element of the strategy.

“We’re also proposing to scale-up our current efforts to replace fossil fuel heating systems with efficient electric heat pumps that use heat from the ground or from the air to meet our heating needs,” Leitch said.

Government buildings will be retrofitted, too, she continued, or renewable heating systems using things like biomass will be used.

Transitioning towards a green economy is also on the map. This will be done by giving more supports to innovators and streamlining funding for green projects.

“We will track our progress on building a green economy by looking at our greenhouse gas emissions per person and our greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product,” Leitch said. “Over time, these numbers will go down, showing that we are being more efficient, in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions that we generate for each of the goods and services that we enjoy.”

The strategy has taken over two years to reach this point.

The final iteration will be released next year. It’s unclear when exactly.

It’s anticipated to cost roughly $450 million over 10 years, Letich said, adding that close to two-thirds of it could be covered by federal funding.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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