Question re: Climate change action plan - December 3, 2015

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the government released its progress report on its climate change action plan. In the report, the minister acknowledges that the government — and I quote: “… recognizes the magnitude of changes to our northern climate and our willingness to respond in a coordinated, informed and timely manner.

I thank the government for providing us with an update as we head to the critical climate change talks in Paris next week. The update addresses how we will adopt here in the Yukon and the update establishes that from now on, we will use more robust methods of tracking our Yukon-wide emissions.

However, the update does not lay out a clear picture for how we will address the cause of climate change. Can the minister or the Premier explain how we plan to do our part to reduce emissions here in the Yukon? How are we responding in a coordinated, informed and timely manner?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko: I do thank the member opposite for the question. I sure hope that the briefings this morning for both parties across the way were informative.

Of course everybody knows — and I’ve said it in the House before — that in 2009, the Government of Yukon released its climate change action plan, which included priority actions to help us better understand the challenges and to adapt — not adopt, adapt — to change. The four main goals in the plan are: enhance the knowledge and the understanding of climate change, adapting to climate change, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and leading the Yukon action in response to climate change.

So this is the second progress report so far showing what we have achieved. The report shows our government recognizes the magnitude of changes to our northern climate and that we are responding in a coordinated, informed and timely manner. In the progress report, there are sector-specific targets. They are ambitious ones — electricity, industrial operations, and the building and transportation sectors.

So I look forward to working with all the people from around the world on this issue and see what comes out of COP21. I look forward to our robust group of folks heading over there to tell Yukon’s story.

Mr. Silver: It is worth noting that Yukon’s per capita emissions — we’re 30-percent higher than BC, 35-percent higher than Ontario and 70-percent higher than Quebec.

The Premier has noted in the Legislature and in the media that transportation accounts for well over half of all emissions here in the territory. Where in the plan is the focus on transportation? How does the government hope to achieve the emissions reduction targets that it has set, including an interim target to reduce transportation emissions by 10 percent by the end of this year?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko: Since developing the climate change action plan, the government has demonstrated leadership and commitment to climate change. Our commitment to addressing climate change is emphasized in the plan’s four goals — the areas of greenhouse gas reduction, responding to climate change impacts, developing knowledge and understanding of leadership. The plan sets out 33 priority actions, most of which are complete, and we are going to see more actions as we move forward.

Although there is always more work to do, the new 2015 climate change action plan progress report details the significant progress that we have made to date and identifies some of the new actions. So I look forward to moving forward with this and seeing our delegation head to Paris for COP21. I’m really happy that we have a youth ambassador going and the Council of Yukon First Nations — the Grand Chief is going to tell Yukon’s story.

Mr. Silver: Part of the story — two weeks ago, the Minister of Environment spoke about the reductions in transportation emissions and noted that — and I quote: “In 2013, transportation emissions were 9.74 percent lower than 2012.” The update also shows this decrease in emissions.

What we don’t have are measureable actions that are leading to a reduction in transportation emissions. What we do have are mine closures, a fadeout of exploration and a contraction of our economy. Is that the Premier’s plan or the minister’s plan to reduce our emissions — with a recession?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko: Actually we do have a plan, Mr. Speaker. It’s called the Yukon climate change action plan and we started it in 2009. Climate change, we have got to know is affecting the north faster than anywhere else on the planet. Yukoners see it and the effects of it every day. The effects on our road, especially related to permafrost, have been the focus of our work for recent years. We are a sought-after jurisdiction for permafrost research and I can tell you in the riding of Kluane — the great riding of Kluane — the line permafrost along the Alaska Highway, that 200-kilometre section, cost us a whole bunch more — $6 million more — seven times the O&M costs of other regular roads.

So the report looks not only at our successes, Mr. Speaker, but our challenges. We have made progress on meeting our greenhouse gas emission targets, but of course there is still work to be done. One of the positive actions we have taken is to prove the way we measure emissions. There is new data that shows the areas we still need to improve, especially in the transportation sector — the member opposite spoke of it. We will work to do that, but it is important to note that Yukon’s greenhouse gas emission levels are still very low.

I’m looking forward to the delegation heading over to COP21 to see what our federal counterparts come back with, as well as our other partners and other provinces and territories, and working with them.