Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card

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Northwest Territories/YUKON


Northwest Territories


1996 Grade: D

The territorial government has ignored the need for thorough environmental asessment of the exploration and mining development activities. The potential for diamond mining has created a gold rush style bonanza with environmental and biodiversity concerns left out of the picture. The proposed BHP Diamond Mine, for example, is to go in an area where representative ecosystems for protection have yet to be identified.

According to the WWF Endangered Spaces Report, no new protected areas or wildlife conservation areas were established this year.




1996 Grade: D

As reported last year, Yukon is slow in its protected areas strategy. No new protected areas were created this year.

Meanwhile logging pressure is increasing in the Yukon due to rising timber prices, the lack of forestry regulations, very low stumpage rates, and supply shortages to the south in British Columbia. The amount of logging has incraesed 130 per cent in the Yukon since 1990. High quality spruce are being logged, with the loss of old growth habitat. For example, the Kaska Timber Harvest Agreement calls for the permanent removal of 97 per cent of the old growth spruce stands in the area.

Important elements of the southern Yukon's forest ecosystem are being lost.

Protection of endangered species in both Territories will depend on the strength of the proposed endangered species legislation.

Yukon/Northwest Territories - Climate Change


1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: -

1995 Grade: D

1996 Grade: Yukon: D NWT: C-

Carbon dioxide emissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 1,891
1994: Northwest Territories: 1,887 Yukon: 426

The Yukon government grade changed from a D to a C ( the highest in the country) June 10, 1996 when it achnowledged in a letter to Sierra Club that climate change is affecting its territory. The letter is the strongest ever received from a minister. The Yukon's grade remains lower than it could have been because of unfettered forestry activities.

The Northwest Territories grade improves slightly for its efforts to develop renewable energy. Both governments get a low grade for not advancing the interests of their citizens and for not calling on the Canadian government to support large-scale global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mackenzie Basin (Northwestern Canada) has warmed an average 1.7oC over the last 100 years (as compared to 0.30C to 0.6oC globally) and scientists involved in a six-year Mackenzie Basin Impact Study report historically low water levels in Great Slave Lake, localized melting of permafrost, and increased erosion and landslides as a result of historically high forest fires in the Region. More than 2.8 million hectares of forest burned in the Northwest Territories in 1995; 257,280 hectares in the Yukon - almost half of all the forest burned in Canada in 1995 - the second worst forest fire season on record.

Resource management practices also are not in line with protecting sinks or reducing risks from climate change.

The Yukon government is still considering coal development in an area between Whitehorse and Carmacks, and the construction by Cash Resources of a 20 MW coal thermal power plant. In addition, the Yukon and federal governments, have increased the allowable cut from 35,000 - 50,000 cubic metres to over 400,000 cubic metres. Salvage logging is being proposed for Kluane National Park, hard hit by pine beetle infestations - a predicted impact of climate change.

The Yukon government only approved work on climate change activities in November 1995. The initial two-page plan needs further development, but credit is deserved for energy initiatives such as the wind turbine pilot project on Haeckel Hill and energy efficiency loans for home retrofits through Yukon Housing. Its Energy Management Plan for Schools has proven successful with dollar savings twice what was expected.

The Northwest Territories also is only just becoming engaged in the climate change debate. The Territory is heavily reliant on expensive diesel fuel1 which makes it an ideal location for investing in renewable energy technologies which can compete with diesel prices. The Territory has a five-year renewable energy plan and the following projects are in place, according to the province's two-page Voluntary Challenge action plan:

  1. Cambridge Bay wind turbine project (75 kw) by NWT Power Corporation and Dutch Industries and the Igloolik Wind Demonstration Project connecting the community to the electricity grid;
  2. NWT Power Corporation is actively considering using wind turbines where feasible. Studies are under way at four potential sites (a 50 kw wind project at Sachs Harbour is proceeding with a commitment from NWT Power for a third of the investment and a purchase commitment with a rate of return high enough to cover the capital costs of the project in 10 years;
  3. Renewable Resources has funded a solar/wind/diesel hybrid system to provide power to a freezer complex;
  4. The Aurora Research Institute in co-operation with Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is installing a solar/wind/diesel hybrid system at the Institute;
  5. The NWT Power Corporation formed a joint project with the Gwich'in Tribal Council on waste heat recovery for the new school in Fort McPherson.

While not displacing large amounts of electricity, these projects could contribute greatly to increasing confidence and reduced operating costs for renewable technologies.

31 - Electricity in the NWT cost 22.3 cents/kWh in 1992, the highest rate in Canada. the average is 5.6 cents/kWh, with the lowest rates in B.C. - 4.6 cents/kWh. In 1993, according to Electric Power in Canada, oil supplied 237 Gwh of electricity in NWT;

Increased mineral development, however, could easily offset the emissions reductions from these renewable energy projects. By one calculation, the Northwest Territories could increase its carbon dioxide emissions some 16 per cent above 1990 levels as a result of the energy consumption of the proposed BHP diamond mine as a result of diesel and gasoline consumption.

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Copyright 1996 Sierra Club of Canada