While the Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped nominally in 2020, the territory is still a long way from meeting its 10-year target, according to new data.
An update to the Yukon’s Our Clean Future report was issued on Sept. 12. The original report from 2020 listed 136 environmental goals for the territory, including a 45 per cent drop in emissions by 2030.
The first annual update shows that Yukon’s emissions in 2020 fell 12 per cent compared to 2019, though that percentage excludes mining from its emissions math.
The Yukon is currently sixth in the country for per capita emissions. Nearly half of the Yukon’s emissions come from gasoline and diesel vehicles.
The drop shows that behavioural changes around travel and transportation during the pandemic did have an impact, the Yukon government says.
“While we see emissions starting to move in the right direction, there is still significant action needed to meet our 45 per cent reduction target for 2030,” said John Streicker, minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, at a press conference alongside Highways Minister Nils Clarke and Rebecca Turpin, director of the Climate Change Secretariat.
Despite the pandemic drop, emissions in 2020 were still three per cent higher than in 2010. The Sept. 12 report explains that even if all 136 goals are achieved in the Our Clean Future report, emissions will only drop 15 per cent by 2030. It calls for “significant collaboration, research and action” to meet the goal of 45.
“We’ve known there’s a shortfall there, and what we’re doing right now is looking at whether we enhance some of our specific actions or whether we add to them,” Streicker said.
Mining industry tied to separate emissions goals
The Our Clean Future update did not include mining emissions in its calculation.
When mining is included, it boosts the Yukon’s emissions 13 per cent, according to a separate report issued the same day. That means actual emissions have only dropped seven per cent from 2019 and increased six per cent from 2010.
Turpin explained that mining is isolated, because it will soon be held to a different, intensity-based target – which creates a ratio of emissions offset by the mines’ output. That target will be decided this year.
Streicker said the intensity-based target is an “interim step” on the way to Yukon’s net-zero emissions goal for 2050.
“We know there are certain minerals which are very important in this transition,” Streicker said, later stressing that the government is looking for ways to mitigate emissions without injuring the territory’s economic development, and that mines are held to account on several different regulatory avenues.
The Our Clean Future report set 19 goals for the Yukon in 2021. Thirteen are complete, three are in progress, two were pushed back and one was revised.
The North at risk assessed
The Yukon government also issued a risk and resilience report, which gauges the impact of climate change events in the territory.
It assessed 41 climate hazards ranging from permafrost thaw to wildfires and extreme weather, using those to set seven priorities for building resilience.
Priority one was found to be extreme weather events threatening highways and other transportation infrastructure.
“The Yukon is remote and its transportation network is critical,” the report says.
Geohazard mapping and vulnerability assessments were recommended “as quickly as possible,” followed by government investment in road maintenance.
The second priority was floods and fires. The report asks for increased flood forecasting capacity, noting the territory has too few monitoring stations and too little long-term data.
It also asks for more emergency personnel to support fire and flood seasons simultaneously.
The Yukon government is already working on flood maps and emergency response plans for all communities, the report continues. It’s also investigating adequate insurance options for Yukoners at risk of floods and fires.
A third priority is permafrost thawing, which mainly calls for increased studies on the impact of thaw and more widely distributed data for those in charge of infrastructure planning.
The remaining five priorities are the climate’s impact on the ecosystem; risks posed to heritage and safety; risks to health; and risks to the economy.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org