CO2 emission needs to slow, but our growth can't

Environmental consciousness has been sweeping the nation, and Canadians, for the most part, are increasingly concerned about climate change and the effects of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions. This has triggered an important conversation across Canada about how we can meet our energy needs while still reducing predicted global temperature and sea-level increases. 

But even though the impacts are global, many of the actions we must take are far more local.

Yukon has a very important role to play. As a major per-capita consumer of fuels like gasoline and diesel, we have an obligation to maximize efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions as much as we can.

However, acting to slow Yukon’s emissions doesn’t mean curtailing economic growth. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But first let’s recap – Yukon’s government has already been moving to reduce GHG emissions:

  • Building high energy efficiency facilities
  • Implementing residential and commercial energy incentive programs to help home and building owners improve energy performance and reduce energy consumption, costs and emissions.
  • Improving hydro capacity through the Mayo B hydro facility and the addition of a third turbine at the Aishihik hydro facility.
  • Providing funding for wind turbines in Yukon communities.
  • Implementing the Independent Power Production Policy to enable independent, non-utility electricity producers to sell electricity to Yukon’s public utilities through renewable energy technologies.
  • Implementing the Microgeneration Policy to enable individuals and businesses to install electrical generating systems and sell surplus to the grid.
  • Implementing the Good Energy Rebate Program.
  • Developing community energy plans.

On the federal level, the Canadian government recently announced its intent to deploy “renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel, coal or firewood in remote communities, in collaboration with international partners and organizations” together with Mexico and the USA.

Clearly Canadians and Yukoners are moving in the right direction to address the climate impacts of our energy sources. That doesn’t mean we can stop moving the issue forward though.

The biggest sector contributing to Yukon’s total GHG and CO2 emissions is transportation. Our territory is vast and getting around requires gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel. All of that is imported. The sheer consumption combined with the inefficiency of how we source it (and all the emissions created by supplying it from outside) make for a huge challenge to our plans to cut back on emissions.

There are a few ways of addressing the transportation sector’s share of carbon emissions, while still meeting energy needs. Most crucially, we must look at creating new technologies and improving existing ones.

Even though electric car batteries aren’t yet suitable for commercial transportation, extremely cold weather, or long-distance travel without frequent top-up, there are still miles left to cover in the research and development of these technologies. But as important as it is to continue innovating in how we power vehicles, it’s just as vital we ensure that the source of the energy used to charge these batteries is renewable too, and Yukon Energy’s been doing just that by rapidly expanding the proportion of electricity produced via hydro.

In the US, researchers at MIT have been looking to natural gas as a promising lead in fueling transportation. Though natural gas as a common fuel for cars may be decades away, adopting it more as a replacement for diesel in Yukon’s electricity generation could pave the way for eventual transportation use. As a clean-burning fuel, it could go a long way towards displacing fuels that create more CO2 and reducing total emissions.

Those are some of the promising possibilities in the future. But there’s a lot we can do in the short term, and it all starts with being mindful of where our fuels come from and how. Pipelines, trains, trucks, and more carry our gasoline and diesel to use – sometimes from as far as Montana! The better we do with our fuel sourcing, the more we can do to improving our overall carbon footprint.

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