Yellowknife wants your help figuring out its climate change priorities

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Exhaust emissions from the tail pipe of a vehicle in Yellowknife. According to 2013 data, Yellowknife, as a community, emitted 305,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that year.  (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
Exhaust emissions from the tail pipe of a vehicle in Yellowknife. According to 2013 data, Yellowknife, as a community, emitted 305,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that year. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

The City of Yellowknife is asking people what its climate change priorities should be — as it draws closer to needing a new energy plan and emission targets.

Chris Vaughn, the city's manager of sustainability and solid waste, said the purpose of a climate change open house at city hall on Thursday was to "get the pulse of the community."

Feedback gathered from the in-person event as well as an online survey will help the city figure out if it needs to "steer the ship in a different way," he said, as it tries to sort out its priorities.

France Benoit, who came to the open house as a Yellowknife resident, says climate change is the biggest threat the city — and the world — will face in the next few years.

"I think there should be a big emphasis on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions," she said. "We can make ourselves believe we're not part of the problem because we, apparently, emit not a lot of greenhouse gas emissions but I think, personally, that's a fallacy."

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC

Some of the ways to achieve that, she said, are to reduce the city's reliance on fossil fuel, increase local food production and create more car sharing agreements.

Leonardo Conde also provided feedback at the open house. He suggested the city make sure its climate change policies aren't maladaptive — which means they backfire and have unintended negative consequences.

Conde moved to Yellowknife last month. He said it was "great" that the city cares about gathering input from the community about climate change, and he wished more people had attended the open house.

Will the city hit its 2025 targets?

The current ten-year energy action plan outlines two greenhouse gas emission reduction targets the city wants to reach by 2025: one is for the city as a corporation, which would include the city's buildings and vehicles. The other is for the city as a community.

Vaughn said the city gets data each year on its emissions, and that the corporation was "doing relatively well" on its commitment to reduce them by 1,500 tonnes (50 per cent) from what they were in 2009.

But he said it's harder to know how the city is doing with its community goal of reducing emissions by 55,0000 tonnes (30 per cent) because it requires hiring a third party contractor to do an assessment of emissions from Yellowknife homes and buildings — which doesn't happen every year.

The city did its first community assessment in 2004, the second in 2013, and the third — which will estimate emissions in 2021 — is underway right now. According to the current energy action plan, the City of Yellowknife emitted 3,185 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013 while the community emitted 305,000 tonnes.

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