A new strategy for climate change, energy and green economy in Yukon
How we're developing the strategy
The Government of Yukon, Yukon First Nations, transboundary Indigenous groups and Yukon municipalities are collaborating to develop the new climate change, energy and green economy strategy.
The first public engagement period has closed. The project team is now using public input and expert knowledge to develop a draft version of the strategy. You will then get a second opportunity to provide input on the draft climate change, energy and green economy strategy.
With this input, the Government of Yukon will work collaboratively with Yukon First Nations, transboundary Indigenous groups and Yukon municipalities to prepare a recommended strategy to be reviewed and approved by the Yukon government. The final strategy will be released in 2019.
About the new strategy
The new strategy will replace the 2009 Climate Change Action Plan and the 2009 Energy Strategy for Yukon. It will contain priorities and actions that align with Yukon’s climate change, energy and economic needs.
Yukon has made some headway in dealing with energy and climate change issues, but a lot has changed since strategies for these areas were last developed. We are ready for an updated, innovative approach to climate change, energy and the economy.
Climate change, energy and the economy are interconnected
- Our economy relies on energy.
- The kinds of energy we use affect climate change.
- The impacts of climate change affect our energy supply and our economy.
- Economic decisions influence how much and what kinds of energy we use, and how resilient we are to the impacts of climate change.
By addressing climate change, energy and economy together, Yukon can effectively respond to the rapid changes happening in our territory.
Read the discussion document for more information about the new strategy.
Yukon is experiencing significant changes to its climate. Over the past 50 years, temperatures have warmed by 2°C and rain and snowfall have increased 6%. Some of the resulting impacts we are experiencing are:
- Permafrost is thawing, damaging our buildings and roads;
- New plant and animal species are moving north, impacting our ecosystems and wildlife;
- Glaciers are melting, changing river flow patterns; and
- Higher risk of flooding and more frequent and severe forest fires.
To face these ongoing changes, Yukon can adapt to the impacts we are already experiencing and plan responses to the changes that are coming.
Why is the climate changing?
Climate change is primarily caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning fossil fuels. Other activities such as waste management, wastewater treatment, and a variety of land uses also release greenhouse gases.
Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions are primarily from the fossil fuels used for personal and commercial transportation and heating.
While Yukon’s emissions only account for a small fraction of Canada’s overall GHG emissions (0.08%), our per person emissions are comparable to the rest of the country. Reducing our GHG emissions means we are part of the national and global solution.
Yukoners mainly use electricity or refined petroleum and propane products to meet our energy needs. About one-third of our energy comes from renewable energy resources like hydro and solar, while the remaining two-thirds comes from non-renewable sources like diesel and propane.
Yukoners have access to many energy resources. These resources need to be cost-effective, reliable and environmentally sustainable. Energy efficiency and conservation can also help address our energy needs.
When considering potential energy choices for Yukon, it is important to ask:
- Is it affordable?
- Is it reliable?
- It is renewable?
- What are the GHG emissions and other negative impacts?
A common way of looking at the economy is gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measurement of the value of the goods and services produced by the economy.
Taking action on climate change and energy will help build a diverse, green economy that creates economic growth with as little environmental impact as possible. Yukon businesses will see new opportunities in areas like renewable energy and energy efficiency. The knowledge economy will grow as we innovate solutions to local and global challenges. All Yukon businesses will benefit from initiatives to use energy and other resources more efficiently.
Key areas of interest
We have identified seven key areas that need to be considered as we work to meet our energy needs, address climate change and build a green economy.
- Land and resources
- Skills and innovation
Here is some information about each suggested area of interest along with questions to help get you thinking about how a new strategy could relate to you and your community’s needs. The feedback and input we receive may result in additional areas of interest in the final strategy.
Yukon has an isolated electricity grid that is not connected to the rest of North America. When we run short, we are unable to import. When we have more power than we need, we cannot export it. We rely on backup diesel and natural gas when demand is high and for emergencies. These backup energy sources need to be quick and reliable to keep the heat and the lights on.
Climate change affects our electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure through things like thawing permafrost, forest fires, and storms.
Energy and GHGs
Most of our electricity comes from hydro (94%), with 6% from diesel and less than 1% from liquefied natural gas (LNG), wind and solar. Four communities (Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay/Burwash Landing, Watson Lake, and Old Crow) are not connected to the main electrical grid and rely on diesel.
Taking ownership of energy generation and creating local jobs is a priority for some Yukon communities. More Yukoners are generating their own electricity and selling the unused excess to the grid.
Energy and GHGs
Yukon homes and buildings are heated using a combination of oil, propane, wood and electricity. Most homes are heated by oil or propane (75%), with a smaller number heated by wood (17%) and/or electricity (8%).
Warmer temperatures could reduce the amount of heat we use, while simultaneously increasing demand for air conditioning. More forest fires may impact our biomass resources, but also create opportunities to harvest local wood while reducing forest fire risk.
Biomass projects in Yukon are reducing heating costs and dependence on imported fossil fuels, and creating new jobs in the local forest and heating industries. Some communities are exploring the potential for geothermal and other innovative forms of heat (e.g., waste heat).
Energy and GHGs
Our transportation needs are met almost entirely from fossil fuels. Transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions in Yukon, coming primarily from the cars, trucks, and other vehicles on our roads (88%). Personal gasoline and diesel vehicles make up a significant portion of those emissions
Thawing permafrost continues to affect Yukon’s roads and runways. Increasing precipitation could affect existing culverts and drainage systems. Changes to wind direction and visibility may affect air transport.
Transportation is essential to our economy and personal wellbeing and to the quality of life we have come to enjoy. Our transportation system allows us to import, export and move products and people from one place to another.
A small portion of our GHG emissions are from how we use land and resources, rather than the energy we use. For example, GHGs are released from landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, farms and land use changes.
Our lands and resources are changing. Elders and other community members are noticing changing plants and new species like cougars, mule deer and different kinds of insects entering Yukon’s ecosystem. Animal migration patterns are shifting. The risk of severe forest fires and floods is increasing, ice and glaciers are melting, and river flows are changing.
Warmer, wetter conditions are creating opportunities for our local agricultural industry. More reuse and recycling saves money on landfill operating costs, delays the high cost of opening new landfills, and creates local jobs repairing and reselling old goods.
Yukon communities are already taking a leadership role in building low-carbon economies and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The type and amount of energy used by communities depends partly on their layout and infrastructure. Communities need to identify specific land uses and develop community energy plans to determine how they can adopt sustainable electricity, heating and transportation.
Extreme weather events like forest fires and floods impact housing, air quality, drinking water, emergency preparedness, and access to food and medical care. Permafrost thaw is affecting buildings and infrastructure. As our landscape changes it becomes harder to continue traditional ways of living, and Indigenous communities are concerned about their cultural identity and wellness.
Yukon communities need sustainable funding and the capacity to evaluate and undertake new projects. Communities need to keep working together and with their partners to achieve the most benefit. Youth, teachers, councillors, role models, and other community leaders are critical to shaping the future of Yukon’s communities. They need to be informed and empowered within their communities to make change.
Clean technology like solar panels and energy efficient lights help reduce GHG emissions. These technologies are available and have been shown to work in Yukon. In other cases, the technologies we need are not available or have not been tailored to work properly in the north. This is an opportunity for Yukon to innovate new, clean technologies that work in remote and cold climates.
Climate change can destabilize supply chains, increase operating costs, and affect the cost and type of insurance businesses need. Concern about climate change may make customers demand more sustainable products and services. Businesses want to understand how climate change is impacting their industry and plan for how they can adapt.
Yukon businesses, entrepreneurs and workers will require the right skills to capitalize on new opportunities in a green economy. For example, trade and technical skills in energy efficient building construction or in renewable energy technology installations.
Forms of Knowledge
Traditional knowledge, local knowledge, and scientific knowledge are valuable in building a climate change, energy and green economy strategy that makes sense for Yukoners.
Tracking our Progress
It is important we have an accurate picture of how our actions achieve our objectives. Creating clear goals and monitoring our progress keeps us moving in the right direction. Establishing targets can track progress toward meeting our collective goals. However, monitoring requires time and money, and it is necessary to strike the right balance.
Outreach and Education
Sharing information on climate change, energy and green economy will help inspire Yukoners to take action and educate them on which actions to take.
Yukoners taking action
See how Yukoners are already taking action to address climate change, meet our energy needs sustainably, and create green economic opportunities.
Teslin Biomass Project
Creating economic opportunities while generating local, renewable heat.
Old Crow Solar Project
Generating solar electricity in Yukon’s far north.
Taku River Hydro Project
Run-of-river hydro project in Yukon’s neighbouring community of Atlin, BC.
Finding sustainable ways to get from point A to point B.
Reducing energy use
Yukoners changing their behaviour to save money and reduce their energy use.