Auditor General says Yukon Not Doing Enough on Climate Change

    AG says commitments not prioritized.

    The Auditor General of Canada says the Yukon Government needs to do better on climate change. The report issued Tuesday mainly focused on the previous government’s climate change strategy. The report noted that “the Government of Yukon created a strategy, an action plan, and two progress reports to respond to climate change. In developing these items, the government took good first steps toward providing leadership and direction for responding to climate change. However, the commitments in the government’s action plan and progress reports were weak and not prioritized. In addition, deficiencies in the Climate Change Secretariat’s reporting made it difficult to assess progress on the government’s climate change actions.”

    The departments of Energy, Mines and Resources, Environment and Community Services had produced information on climate change but had taken little concrete action. Auditor Casey Thomas says the departments “we looked at had not done enough to meet the government’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” And that the departments “did not meet many of the government’s twelve targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or they were unable to measure their progress against those targets.”

    The audit says “the benefits of gathering information are fully realized only when the information is used to take action in a timely manner.” The report says the temperature in the territory rose three degrees Celsius in 2016, which is causing permafrost infrastructure issues, varying precipitation and extreme weather conditions. Climate change is having a devastating affect on the Yukon and its finances, as the report noted. “The Department of Highways and Public Works determined that the cost of rehabilitating permafrost sections of roads and highways was as much as 10 times the cost of rehabilitating non-permafrost sections.” Flooding and forests were also damaged.

    While the report was a reflection on the Yukon Party, MLA Brad Cathers, (Lake Laberge) who was a Cabinet Minister for many years covering the audit focused, says its scope was too narrowed to just the climate change strategy and not linked to other reports such says the Energy Strategy or other climate programs, pointing to renewable energy.

    Yet he did admit that the former government could have done a better job in “both quantifying, the actions and reporting on those actions.” Cathers did not want to dwell on the shortcomings while in government, instead focusing on what the Liberal government is going to do. “A more detailed plan about what actions they are planning on taking and the predicted effects. That's one of the areas the Auditor General identified as a gap in several areas related to this current audit, where government hadn't really quantified what the reduction would be on greenhouse gas emissions. The most notable and obvious example would be [regarding the] carbon tax plan. We still don't know the exact cost to Yukoners. We still don't have the details on what rebates might be provided. The government has not identified any predictions about predicted fossil fuel consumption.”

    Environment Minister Pauline Frost (Vuntut Gwitch’in) was not available for an interview following the release of the report, opting to issue a statement. “The report presented four overarching recommendations, outlining that there are improvements to be made in Yukon’s approach to climate change. The government supports the recommendations, and work is underway to address them.” Frost adds. “As outlined in the report, a climate risk assessment contract is also underway. This information will support departments as they develop climate risk reduction plans, including implementation and monitoring plans.”

    (Dan Jones Whitehorse Dec. 5, 2017)

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