Arctic strategy aims to reduce climate change, cost of living

Premier Bob McLeod meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday. Photo courtesy: Justin Trudeau on Twitter. (2016)
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The premier and members of cabinet are in Ottawa this week meeting with the federal government to discuss ways to combat climate change in the NWT.

In its Arctic Strategy, the GNWT introduced three key priorities to help reduce the territory’s carbon footprint.

They include creating renewable energy solutions like wind and solar power options in the NWT, all-weather road projects, and a proposed Taltson hydro expansion project.

“As everybody knows, the Northwest Territories and the Northern territories are the most affected by climate change,” said Premier Bob McLeod in a conference call with reporters.

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“Through all these various meetings with the prime minister and various federal ministers we have a much better understanding and grasp of how we can work with the federal government on dealing with climate change.”

All-weather road infrastructure

Projected to cost $727 million, the GNWT proposes to replace winter roads will all-weather highways to “adapt to the impacts of climate change and develop a resilient NWT transportation system”, the document reads.

Wally Schumann, the territory’s transportation minister, added: “Only 33 percent of the land area of the NWT is within 100 kilometres of all-weather road.

“Only 12 of our 33 communities have uninterrupted access via the all-weather highway system.”

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In the final report of the Canada Transportation Act, a review panel recommended federal investment in Northern transportation corridors.

These corridors include the Mackenzie Valley Highway and the Slave Geological Province Access corridors.

Schumann says the construction of a bridge across the Bear River is a top priority as it relates to the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in the Mackenzie Valley, and the construction of this bridge would immediately extend the winter road season in this region,” he said.

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This in turn would improve connections with remote northern communities in the area.

The strategy states that “the [highway] will connect several NWT communities to the public highway system, resulting in a lower cost of living for residents and lower costs of operations for businesses.”

Building infrastructure is also another way to reduce the cost of living, the premier says.

“We firmly believe it will not only open up opportunities for development, but it will also result in a decrease of the cost of living for those in the population affected,” said McLeod.

“That’s the reality. If you can load up a truck and drive to Whati, for example, it would certainly be a lot cheaper than if you had to load up an airplane and fly to Whati.”

The premier could not comment on how much funding would be covered by the federal government and how much would come from the territory.

Renewable solutions for off-grid diesel communities

According to the document, 25 out of 33 of the NWT’s communities rely on diesel generation as their standalone source of power.

“Projects to replace a portion of the NWT’s diesel generation with renewable energy sources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions … and demonstrate innovative solutions,” the strategy reads.

Three projects that were identified by the government include:

  • The Inuvik Wind project, which aims to develop two to four megawatts of wind energy to be transmitted via a 10-kilometer transmission line to Inuvik. It hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4,300 tonnes per year. The government predicts this would eliminate the need for 1.3 million liters of diesel in Inuvik annually, in turn reducing the cost of living.
  • The High penetration solar project would see batteries or speed generators installed in 15 diesel communities throughout the NWT, and the territorial government says this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 20 to 25 per cent in remote communities.
  • A transmission line connecting Fort Providence to the Taltson hydroelectric system would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4,900 tonnes a year according to the GNWT. This is the first phase of a larger project to expand Taltson hydro, which is projected to cost anywhere from $700 million to $955 million.
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