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New greenhouse gas targets set for NWT

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 26, 2011

The government's newly released greenhouse gas strategy has shifted its focus from reducing GNWT emissions to reducing emissions territory-wide, and includes ambitious targets for all sectors of the NWT economy.

The strategy, which is the government's third since 2001, aims to stabilize emissions at 2005 levels by 2015 and limit emissions increases to 66 per cent above 2005 levels by 2020.

By 2030 it aims to return emissions to 2005 levels.

Although the targets don't call for a reduction, they take into account growth in the mining and natural gas sectors, which accounted for 44 per cent of the NWT's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.

According to Jim Sparling, manager of climate change programs for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the further development of renewable energy is key to reducing emissions.

"By developing local, renewable energy resources we're going to get more out of economic development," he said.

"Right now, the mines buy their oil down in Alberta and ship it up and burn it, and they're spending millions of dollars on that. If we can start to use and supply locally-derived energy and sell it, then we've stimulated the economy - not only by having a mine, but also by providing more of the services that that mine needs."

Electrical generation for remote mines and communities is the largest source of emissions in the NWT, according to the report.

Sparling said diesel power has historically been the first choice for mines, and one major challenge is promoting the use of renewable energy like wood pellets, solar panels, wind power, geothermal heating and even hydroelectricity.

"Whatever is cost effective," said Sparling. "The big thing is trying to move around this business cycle so that as new mines come in, we're able to start promoting renewables and getting it factored in."

He added energy efficient products, which were the focus of the previous greenhouse gas strategy, are becoming more and more popular, but capital costs are still a roadblock for many homeowners and businesses.

"We haven't quite cracked that nut yet," he said. "When the day comes when your fridge dies and you're going to replace it, then that's when you need to buy the new, very efficient fridge. That's when you make that capital investment."

The report also explored the possibility of introducing a carbon tax or cap and trade system, and concluded a carbon tax could reduce emissions by 13 per cent in 20 years.

A cap and trade system would only work, according to the report, if it was created in partnership with other regions.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been developing the new greenhouse gas strategy since January.

Staff held public consultations in 12 communities and regional centres in the NWT from April to May, and also collected feedback through the department's website.

The goal of the previous greenhouse gas strategy was to reduce GNWT emissions to 10 per cent below 2001 levels by 2011, which Sparling said the government is on track to achieve.

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