Here’s how the N.W.T. can cut greenhouse gas emissions faster and cheaper

The Northwest Territories can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions faster and cheaper than its current plan, according to a feasibility study commissioned by Alternatives North.

The study, released Wednesday to coincide with Earth Day, looks at what it would take to cut emissions in the territory in half by 2030, based on 2017 figures, which works out to 600 kilotonnes a year.

The premise of the study looked at what action the government can take based on the understanding that global warming is an emergency that requires an immediate response, something it says the territory has failed to do.

It found if the territory invested $15 million a year in greenhouse gas reduction projects or activities around the world — known as carbon offsetting — it would result in a 50 per cent reduction, based off a price of $25 per tonne.

Lachlan Maclean, co-author of the study, is a renewable energy consultant based in Yellowknife.     (Submitted by Andrew Robinson)

The study acknowledged it would divert funds that would otherwise be spent in the territory.

But one of its authors says any carbon offset helps.

“This is a situation where you think globally and you act globally,” said  Lachlan Maclean, a renewable energy consultant based in Yellowknife.  

“When it comes to climate change, any reductions anywhere in the world are valuable.”

The study is also recommending the territory invest in biomass and co-generation district heating systems in N.W.T. communities over the next five years at a cost of around $145 million, transition from fossil to renewable diesel (fuel made from vegetable oils and fats rather than fossilized carbon), and commission a study to come up with the most cost-effective way of becoming carbon neutral within 15 years.

(CBC News)

The territory’s 2030 N.W.T. Climate Change Strategic Framework looks to slice emissions by 30 per cent based on 2005 figures, or 517 kilotonnes a year, in line with the Paris Agreement.  

Nearly half of the reduction would come from a proposed $1.2 billion expansion to the Taltson Hydroelectric plant that would more than triple its generation capacity and link electrical grids north and south of Great Slave Lake via an underwater cable.

Maclean calls the plan “too little and too late.”

“The current plan doesn’t accomplish 50 per cent reduction and it doesn’t do it in 10 years, and it’s also compared to the technologies we were looking at, the least cost-effective,” he said.

“If we’re talking about government spending to help address this as an emergency, we want to make sure the money goes to the things that are the most effective.”

A map showing the potential location of the proposed cable linking the Snare hydro system outside Yellowknife with the Taltson system near Fort Resolution. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

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