How the North is Doing When it comes to Canada’s Climate Targets


The North constitutes a “very small fraction” of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions; however, a new climate change report indicates the territories should still be aiming for more ambitious reduction targets.

The report issued by the Pembina Institute, which is an energy and climate-think tank, states Canada is off track in achieving its recently announced 2030 or 2050 net-zero goals — and success needs an “all hands on deck” method from all levels of the administration.

Pembina’s director of federal policy, Isabelle Turcotte, said,

“Unfortunately if we look at the policy infrastructure in place, there are some important gaps in terms of climate planning and adaptation in the North.”

The hope, she revealed, is not to “point a finger” at the regions — which tackle a unique set of challenges and impacts than the provinces — but to motivate collaboration between all levels of government so that the nation attains its goals and the North gains support in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Turcotte’s key suggestion for each zone is to transition from diesel fuel to clean energy, to build energy-efficient housing, and to empower remote communities to produce their own renewable energy.

Action plan needed in Nunavut

Nunavut’s last climate change plan was from 2003, and it is the area with the biggest opportunity for change, noted Turcotte.

“A priority recommendation for Nunavut is to develop a new climate plan, as well as an adaptation plan, to make sure that those impacts of climate change are understood,” she expounded.

The report indicates that the area accounts for just 0.1 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions; however, those emissions have risen by 25 percent from 2005 and are expected to continue rising.

“Nunavut faces many pressing challenges in terms of meeting health, housing, and education needs,” the report states. However, Turcotte revealed there are “synergies” between initiatives that would tackle these issues and reduce emissions.

The report said,

“Along with renewable energy projects, the government of Nunavut in partnership with the Nunavut Housing Corporation should develop more energy efficiency and conservation programs … and make building retrofits a priority.”

N.W.T. ‘lacks concrete policies’

Meanwhile, the Northwest region has “some leadership” for its aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent of what they were in 2005 by 2030 indicates the report.

Nonetheless, the plan “lacks concrete policies to show how it’ll reach” its goals, stated Turcotte.

She noted,

“What we’re recommending across the board is for government, including in the North, to set higher 2030 targets and break that down into sectoral targets.”

Similar to the rest of the North, the N.W.T. constitutes a very small part of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions with 0.2 percent.

Regardless of not having a strategy to tackle climate change until 2018, the report revealed that greenhouse gas emissions in the region have declined by 16 percent since 2005 and are forecasted to decrease by another 4 percent by 2030.

The N.W.T.’s goal also falls short of Canada’s revised target — the federal administration stated it was targeting a 40 to 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 earlier this month.

Turcotte noted the N.W.T. has no target for 2050.

Yukon a leader in climate action

On the other hand, Yukon has targets set for both 2030 and 2050.

The region recently raised its emission reduction goal to 45 percent, to match the government’s target, in what Turcotte acknowledges as a “display of leadership” and a “win for the territory.”

The report reads that Yukon’s climate action plan has “concrete actions to reduce emissions across the economy, including its highest emitting sectors.”

Turcotte stated there are opportunities for Yukon to do more.

“Namely, by increasing that climate target and focusing again on access to clean energy and energy efficiency.”

Emissions from Yukon constitute 0.1 percent of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.


The transportation industry is the most significant creator of greenhouse gas emissions in all three regions. In 2019, it made up 75 percent of the Yukon’s emissions, 68 percent of Nunavut’s, and 58 percent in the Northwest Territories.

Turcotte revealed traditional solutions such as public or active transportation, or electric vehicles are challenging to implement in the North due to low population density and broad geographical scale.

Regardless, electric vehicles could be a long-term solution, she noted.

“There are opportunities to increase the availability of electric vehicles in the North and I think tackling what the specific barriers to uptake would be, identifying and tackling them, is an important first step.”

Turcotte claims a transition to biodiesel and renewable natural gas is an alternative, which would permit people to continue using the vehicles they have while reducing the intensity of the fuels being used.

The aim of the report, she noted, is to show Canadians the federal administration can only do so much when it comes to climate change as provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the energy sector.

Turcotte said,

“This report highlights there are major deficiencies and major gaps … it should strongly suggest to Canadians and ring an alarm bell that their governments aren’t planning for their long-term well-being.”


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