Most action items of the GNWT’s 2019-2023 climate change strategy are off the ground, according to the first progress reports on the strategy released Monday.
A “strong, healthy economy” less dependent on fossil fuels by 2030 compared to 2005 is the goal according to the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework Vision.
“The energy strategy is not just about emissions reductions, it’s also about delivering secure and affordable energy as well,” said Robert Sexton, director of energy with the Department of Infrastructure, in a teleconference with reporters Monday.
Under the Strategic Framework 2019-2023 Action Plan, which started in April of 2019, the GNWT has made progress with several actions.
Those include the implementation of carbon pricing in September of 2019; the formation of the Thaidene Nëné and Ts’udé Nilįné Tuyeta Territorial Protected Areas that will help protect habitats and allow wildlife to migrate and adapt to climate change; the start of construction of the Tłı̨chǫ Highway in September of 2019 that will help adapt the highway system to climate change; and GNWT-supported projects that helped decrease carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases by six kilotonnes.
Those projects were completed through the Capital Asset Retrofit Fund, Arctic Energy
Alliance programs, and the Greenhouse Gas Grant Program.
The GNWT and its community and Indigenous government partners invested $25.84 million on implementing the Energy Strategy. The largest share of that investment was in electricity, where $12.44 million was spent on refurbishing hydropower and diesel generators and on the planning and development of new energy projects.
One project was the Community Microgrid Study that analyzed the five electrical micro-grids in the territory to study the renewable capacity limit for solar and wind installations.
Two other projects, led by the Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) using funding from the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund were the Specified Income Home Winterization Program that helps lower-income homeowners winterize their homes; and the Community Wood Stove Program that buys, delivers and installs new stoves in communities on a two-year rotating schedule.
“This year, 66 stoves were delivered and 54 were installed, worth approximately $230,000,” according to the Energy Initiatives Report.
Most of the delivered stoves will replace existing ones and some will be new, said Sexton.
There has also been progress in setting up the NWT Climate Change Council, a body aimed at offering guidance to the GNWT on implementing the Action Plan.
Commenting on the action items of the plan, Julian Kanigan, director of environmental stewardship and climate change with the GNWT, told reporters that the Climate Change Council is one of the key ways the government “envisions Indigenous governments and organizations having a key role at a higher level, thinking and helping us to guide climate change action by the GNWT.”
Despite delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the council is scheduled to have its first meeting in the week of Jan. 18, said Kanigan.
Once the council’s activities ramp up, the GNWT will be able to communicate more effectively with communities in the Beaufort Delta affected by slumping or coastal erosion “to figure out kind of what products are needed and how those would be used best by those who are making decisions about adaptation in the community.”
On the issue of emissions since the pandemic arrived in the NWT, Kanigan said it was too early to determine how much the decrease in economic activity as a result of Covid has affected GHG emissions in the NWT and the tracking of emissions by Environment Canada has a 16-month lag.
“But certainly, there were impacts on the climate change work that we do just because of border closures and changes to research plans … from the perspective of research partners coming north, there was definitely reduced activity and some fieldwork was shifted to desk work,” he said.
The reports released on Monday reflected few effects of the pandemic because their scope extended to the March 31, 2020.
“So we’ll likely see more impacts to the climate change action work in our next annual report.”
Details of the strategy and progress are contained in four reports: NWT Climate Change Action Plan Annual Report 2019/2020, 2019/20 NWT Energy Initiatives Report, NWT Carbon Tax Report 2019/2020 and Responding to Climate Change in the NWT: Plain Language Overview Report.
The overall framework has three main goals: transition to a lower carbon economy, improve knowledge of climate change impacts, and build resilience and adapt to a changing climate.