Nunavut premier happy with watered-down climate change declaration
Give us more cash for infrastructure, Taptuna says
Northern territorial premiers attending the March 4 first ministers conference in Vancouver, including Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, appear to have succeeded in softening the federal government’s desire to create a national carbon emissions pricing system.
And that means that Taptuna can now say he’s “pleased” with the outcome of the meeting: a declaration containing a watered-down commitment to “carbon pricing mechanisms” that seems to give territorial and provincial governments the flexibility to do things their own way.
“We support development of a national strategy that factors in the socio-economic realities of northern and remote communities where renewable energy alternatives are limited,” Taptuna said in a statement issued at the close of the meeting.
Those territorial economic realities include energy costs that in Nunavut’s case are already the highest in the country.
For that reason, the three territorial premiers issued a statement prior to the start of the Vancouver meeting that declares firm opposition to a carbon tax.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the meeting to fulfill a promise his Liberal party made during last year’s federal election campaign: to create a national climate change strategy, with the provinces and territories, within 90 days of taking office.
His proposed climate change strategy, which will now take at least six months to complete, is aimed at finding a way for Canada to comply with the ambitious promise it made at last December’s COP 21 global climate change conference in Paris.
That target requires that by 2030, Canada must reduce carbon dioxide emissions to a level that is 30 per cent below the country’s 2005 emissions levels.
But at a press conference held after the meeting, Trudeau played down the controversial idea of carbon pricing and played up his government’s big spending plans for infrastructure.
“For its part, the Government of Canada has committed to supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation through investments in green infrastructure, public transit infrastructure and energy efficient social infrastructure,” Trudeau said.
As for carbon pricing, that issue has been handed off to one of four working groups that are supposed to report back to federal, provincial and territorial governments in six months.
The joint statement that first ministers produced at the meeting, now called the Vancouver Declaration, contains language that Taptuna and the other territorial premiers are likely to support.
The declaration says the country will transition to a low carbon economy through “a broad range of domestic measures, including carbon pricing mechanisms.”
But it also says that any future climate change plan will take into account “the realities of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.”
And the federal government also promises to help northern communities break their addiction to diesel-generated electrical power.
“We’ve also committed to advancing effort to reduce the dependence on diesel in indigenous, remote and northern communities, replaced by renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Trudeau said.
Taptuna said Nunavut is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the territory — but he wants a lot more money from Ottawa.
“This requires substantial investment from our federal partner,” Taptuna said.
He also pointed out that Nunavut contributes only 0.1 per cent of Canada’s total GHG emissions, but also experiences the most immediate impacts of climate change.
And to that end, he wants the federal government to adjust its climate change spending priorities to what Nunavut wants.
“Federal priorities, actions and investments in Nunavut must align with our work to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
“These will not only provide long-term environmental success, but achieve greater self-reliance and better position us to further our economic and workforce potential,” Taptuna said in his statement.