Robert C. McLeod: Update on NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework

Delivered on March 8, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its mandate to develop a territorial climate change strategy. I am pleased to provide Members with an update on the development of the NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework.

Since my last Minister’s Statement about the Climate Change Strategic Framework in October, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Works and Services have coordinated four joint regional engagement workshops on energy and climate change issues.

Workshops have taken place in Inuvik, Norman Wells, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Yellowknife.  Additional workshops are occurring in Hay River this week and will occur in Behchokö in the coming weeks.

Mr. Speaker, all workshops to date have been well attended with more than 40 participants at each one. Feedback has been very positive.

Residents have been happy with the workshops. Participants were provided with a backgrounder and fact sheets and took part in breakout group sessions that allowed residents to share ideas and hear different perspectives.

A key issue raised was residents’ concerns that a carbon tax will add to the already very high cost of living, create an additional barrier to economic development and add to the already high cost of operating a business in the Northwest Territories.

At the same time, residents expressed a level of acceptance of a carbon pricing scheme if some of the revenues received are allocated to improving energy efficiency in communities, getting communities off diesel and moving towards more renewable energy systems.

Residents also expressed support for increased research and monitoring.  Key areas of interest included the impacts of thawing permafrost, an increase in invasive alien species and pioneer species, changes in wildlife migration patterns, the potential for contaminants and heavy metals to leach into community water supplies, and the impacts on human health.

Traditional knowledge was raised as a tool to help establish baseline information and identify changes occurring on the landscape.  Traditional knowledge holders are concerned that their knowledge should be accessed, used and acknowledged appropriately. Traditional knowledge will play an important part in the development of the Climate Change Strategic Framework.

We have heard, Mr. Speaker, NWT residents want better planning, community funding and communication around climate change, renewable energy systems and energy efficiency.

It is important to remember, Mr. Speaker, we still have a couple of workshops to conduct. The remaining workshops will provide more information, perspectives and feedback from residents, Aboriginal governments and stakeholders on a draft Framework.

Once the workshops have been completed, Environment and Natural Resources will analyze and summarize the feedback from community workshops, the results of the survey and undertake a complete analysis of key topics.

These topics include carbon pricing, greenhouse gas emissions and additional relevant issues flagged in the workshops.

Mr. Speaker, the final NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework will rest on three key pillars: knowledge; resilience and adaptation; and emissions mitigation.

Currently, we are focusing our efforts on several important climate change resilience and adaptation issues. These include ecosystem management, resilient infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, health and safety, and Aboriginal culture and heritage.

We believe there are significant opportunities for our government to work together with Aboriginal governments and stakeholders on climate change. We believe there should be a particular focus on adaptation as we continue to take action towards ensuring our communities are healthy and resilient in the face of serious climate change impacts.

The GNWT is also working closely with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA to provide three days of climate change education in Yellowknife in April. The course is called Earth to Sky and will be the first time it has been offered in Canada.

NASA scientists will be delivering most of the course content and will be using their full suite of global data, imagery and remote-sensing intelligence related to climate change.  GNWT scientists will deliver presentations on the impacts of climate change on wildlife, forests and permafrost and discuss the importance of traditional knowledge to support research on climate change.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with communities to increase our resilience to, and mitigating, the effects of climate change.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.