Wally Schumann: Northwest Territories Climate Change Strategic Framework

Mr. Speaker, climate change continues to be one of the most serious environmental, economic and political challenges of our time and is an important issue to the residents of the Northwest Territories.  In the Mandate, the Government of the Northwest Territories, or GNWT, has committed to develop a territorial climate change strategy that takes Northern energy demands and the cost of living into account. It will reflect commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, explore carbon pricing systems and how to capture local alternatives such as hydro, biomass, wind and solar.  

Work to develop that strategy has begun, led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with GNWT departments and other organizations.

In 1998, the GNWT recognized the need to make an appropriate contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and committed to working with the federal and provincial governments to reduce Canada’s emissions.

The first step towards this commitment was the release of the first Northwest Territories Greenhouse Gas Strategy in 2001. The focus of that Strategy was to identify and coordinate our actions to begin to control greenhouse gas emissions and make sure a northern perspective was part of Canada’s national climate change implementation strategy.   

The most recent strategy, in effect from 2011 to 2015, identified actions that the GNWT, industry and communities could take to stabilize territorial emissions at or below 2005 levels.  Actions in this strategy have been closely linked with actions implemented under the Northwest Territories Energy Plan.

Mr. Speaker, we know these actions must continue to be linked to other GNWT strategies and plans.

Like other jurisdictions around the globe, the Northwest Territories is faced with the need to transform our economy so it will reduce dependency on fossil fuels.  Risks to economic, social and cultural values in our communities will intensify if climate change continues to affect our ability to maintain our traditional pursuits and lifestyle.  Melting permafrost requires more maintenance to our infrastructure and changes to our construction practices to ensure new infrastructure is more resilient to the effects of climate change.  Winter roads are hard to maintain and travelling on the land is becoming more difficult and sometimes dangerous.  Forest fire regimes are changing and there are shifts in plant and animal habitats and distribution.

Last December, the nations of the world met in Paris and adopted a new global agreement to address climate change.  The Northwest Territories, which had just had an election, was represented by a delegation of senior officials. In March 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau invited the Premiers of Canada to a First Ministers Meeting and Premier Bob McLeod joined them for this important discussion.    This meeting resulted in the Vancouver Declaration. 

The Declaration recognizes all provinces, territories and the federal government are responsible for taking action on climate change.  The Declaration also set in place an agreement amongst governments to develop a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and to address climate change. First Ministers, committed to transition to a low carbon economy by adopting a broad range of domestic measures, including consideration of carbon pricing mechanisms, adapted to each province's and territory's specific circumstances, in particular the realities of Canada's Indigenous peoples and Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

Four federal-provincial-territorial working groups were established to begin implementation work and the Northwest Territories is participating in all four groups. Reports of the working groups will be made public in September and provided to First Ministers in October.

Mr. Speaker, we know this is an important issue in the Northwest Territories.  We will be engaging with MLAs, Aboriginal governments, stakeholders and NWT residents to hear their views and gather input on a Northwest Territories Climate Change Strategic Framework and the pan-Canadian framework.  I expect to announce plans on this engagement shortly.

I look forward to hearing Members thoughts on the best approach to this important issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.