The Yukon government has released a comprehensive draft proposal to substantially slash the territory’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the next 10 years.
It proposes 6,000 electric vehicles in use by 2030, or one of every six passenger vehicles on Yukon roads.
It sets out the target of getting 1,500 houses off heating fuel by installing common ground source electric heat pumps that suck the heat out of the ground. The program would require that the home had been retrofitted to maximize energy efficiency.
The strategy talks about reducing the dependency on diesel generation in off-grid communities by 30 per cent.
The publicly-owned Yukon Energy Corp. will be directed to ensure 93 per cent of the electricity it produces for the main grid will come from renewable energy sources by 2030, just as it is today, says the proposal, titled Our Clean Future.
It says encouraging the use of biofuels – a mix of diesel with fuel produced from organics – in the transportation sector will on its own cut 57 kilotonnes of GHGs or 20 per cent of the emission target.
Increasing the use of organically produced ethanol as a clean gasoline will cut another 11 kilotonnes.
The draft not only speaks to the reduction of greenhouse gases but also talks about the need to prepare for and adapt to the impact of climate change. Especially in the Yukon and across the North, where warming is occurring three times faster than anywhere else in the world.
“If we are going to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that we have access to reliable, affordable renewable energy, we have to be ambitious,” Ranj Pillai, the Energy, Mines and Resources minister, told a press conference held Thursday morning to release the proposal.
“This is why the draft strategy proposes that we continue to have 93 per cent of the electricity on the main Yukon grid from renewable sources, even as demand grows.
“... By 2030, we will also meet 40 per cent of our heating needs with renewable energy sources.”
Environment Minister Pauline Frost told the news conference the strategy has been developed over the last two years in partnership with Yukon First Nations, transboundary First Nations and municipalities.
It is a territorial effort that reflects the need to work together to make lasting change, said Frost.
“Responding to climate change will be complex and require a breadth of input and expertise, and collective action,” the minister noted.
“What we are proposing today is an ambitious Yukon-wide strategy that demonstrates action across the territory to respond to a changing climate.
“I encourage all Yukoners to share their thoughts on Our Clean Future and help shape Yukon’s next 10 years.”
Technical staff who held a briefing following the announcement by the two ministers pointed out that input on the draft proposal will be accepted until Jan. 17.
Senior project manager Aletta Leitch of the government’s Climate Change Secretariat said it will take some time to analyze the feedback in preparation of a final recommendation to the territorial cabinet.
It’s likely Our Clean Future – A Yukon strategy for climate change, energy and a green economy, will be finalized in early to mid-2020, she said.
Our Clean Future is the product of two years of research and collaboration. It began in 2017 after the Attorney-General of Canada found the Yukon could be doing more than it was to combat climate change.
The draft proposal calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent lower than they were in 2010.
Back then, the territory was pumping out annually just under 600 kilotonnes of GHG emissions related to human activity.
The most recent hard calculation in 2017 estimated the output at 620 kilotonnes.
On a per capita basis, Yukoners generate the sixth-highest amount of GHGs in the country, the proposal points out.
Today, it’s estimated the territory’s output is about 620 kilotonnes annually. To achieve the 30 per cent reduction compared to 2010 levels will mean cutting emissions by 262 kilotonnes over the next 10 years.
The draft proposal indicates that implementing the 142 action plans laid out in Our Clean Future will get the territory three-quarters of the way there. It’s expected the remaining 62 kilotonnes will be reduced through improvements in technology over the next 10 years, as well as through adjustments of ongoing programs to maximize benefits.
The technical staff explained that having 6,000 electric cars on athe road by 2030 is not unrealistic. Yukoners could be encouraged through rebate programs like the federal rebate program of $5,000 announced last spring, or the $3,000 rebate B.C. is providing.
It will require some buy-in from Yukoners, but combating climate change will require buy-in from everybody to a certain degree, they suggested.
The proposal points out, for instance, that increasing the use of public transit and active transportation like cycling is expected to reduce GHGs by six kilotonnes over the next 10 years.
The proposal notes the Yukon government is committed to ensuring half of the vehicles it purchases going forward will be zero-emissions vehicles. It also cites the need for the government to establish a territory-wide network of charging stations if it expects to stimulate more interest in electric vehicles.
Leitch said the rough estimate of the costs associated with achieving the 30 per cent reduction is in the neighbourhood of $450 million over the 10 years. It includes federal and territorial money currently committed to ongoing energy efficiency programs but it calls for new money, new commitments, she explained.
Leitch said they estimate the federal government will contribute about two-thirds of the cost.