Climate change in Yukon

  • Taking action on climate change
  • Adapting to climate change
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Plans and studies
  1. Taking action on climate change

    As set out in Our Clean Future: A Yukon strategy for climate change, energy and a green economy, we are taking action to:

    • reduce Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, heating, electricity generation and other areas by 30% by 2030;
    • reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Yukon’s mines per unit of material produced;
    • generate 97% of the electricity on Yukon’s main grid from renewable sources by 2030 on average;
    • ensure Yukon is highly resilient to the impacts of climate change by 2030; and
    • build a sustainable green economy.

    Learn more about Yukon’s clean future and what you can do to help. 

  2. Adapting to climate change

    What is climate change?

    Climate change refers to the significant changes we are seeing to:

    • average temperature;
    • precipitation;
    • wind patterns; and
    • other aspects of the climate in Yukon and around the world.

    Earth’s climate has always changed over time, but the changes are happening faster and at a larger scale than ever before.

    The climate changes we are experiencing now are caused by the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These mainly come from human activities that burn fossil fuels. These activities range from driving vehicles and heating buildings to commercial and industrial processes.

    Read more in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

    How does climate change affect Yukon?

    We are already experiencing significant changes to our climate. Yukon’s average temperature increased by 2.3°C between 1948 and 2016,. Winter temperatures increased by 4.3°C over the same time period. This is close to three times the rate at which global temperatures are rising.

    Some of climate change impacts we are facing are:

    o Permafrost thaw, which is damaging buildings and roads, changing landscapes and affecting ecosystems.

    • Changes to weather and conditions on the land, which are reducing access to country foods, deepening food security concerns, and impacting health and cultural identities.
    • More frequent extreme weather events, which can destroy habitats and homes and cause flooding.
    • More severe forest fires, which pose a risk to communities and affect ecosystems and wildlife.
    • Glacier melt, which affects river flow patterns, water temperatures and aquatic health.

    Several of the impacts of climate change described above can also directly and indirectly affect your health, such an increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, worsening lung disease and affecting mental health.

    Learn more about how climate change can affect your health in this report from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

    How are we adapting to climate change?

    Adapting to climate change involves making informed, forward-looking decisions to decrease the negative impacts that climate change may have on our health, wellbeing, ways of life, and livelihoods. Adapting to climate change also involves taking advantage of new opportunities that may arise. Adaptation goes hand in hand with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    To prioritize our adaptation efforts, the Government of Yukon is working with Indigenous and municipal partners to assess how exposed Yukoners are to climate impacts, and how climate change will impact people and communities in different ways. We are also assessing the ability of our built, natural and social systems to deal with potential damages, take advantage of opportunities and cope with the consequences of climate change in Yukon.

    These assessments will help us identify the actions we need to take to address climate change impacts. They will also help us measure, track and reach our target for Yukon to be highly resilient to the impacts of climate change by 2030.

  3. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

    Greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most well-known greenhouse gas. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are also common greenhouse gases. These gases build up in Earth’s atmosphere and create a sort of transparent “blanket” over the Earth just like the walls of a greenhouse.

    What are Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    In Yukon, greenhouse gas emissions mostly come from transportation and heating, with a smaller amount from industry, electricity generation, waste and other areas.

    Pie chart showing Yukon's total greenhouse gas emissions broken down by source. Electricity generation is 3 per cent, aviation is 7 per cent, mining is 10 per cent, heating is 21 per cent, road transportation is 54 per cent and other is 1 per cent.

    While Yukon’s total greenhouse gas emissions are 0.1% of Canada’s emissions because of our small population, our per person emissions of around 18 tonnes per person are the sixth highest in Canada and higher than many other countries.

    Graph comparing per capita emissions in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person. Yukon is lower than Saskatchewan but higher than Sweden.

    What are our greenhouse gas reduction targets?

    By 2030, we will reduce Yukon’s total greenhouse emissions from transportation, heating, electricity generation, other commercial and industrial activities, waste and other areas so that our emissions in these areas are 30% lower than they were in 2010.

    Based on modelling, we estimate that we need to reduce Yukon’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 263 kilotonnes and that the actions in Our Clean Future will get us 3/4 of the way there.

    Read about Our Clean Future to learn more about how we will close this gap.

    We also have a plan to address greenhouse gas emissions from mining, which are not part of the 30% reduction target described above. By the end of 2022, we will work with industry to set a target for greenhouse gas emissions from placer and quartz mining that will see Yukon mines produce fewer emissions of greenhouse gases across their lifecycle for every kilogram or kilotonne of material produced.

    This intensity-based target will encourage industry to look for innovative ways to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from mining, regardless of how many mines are operating.

    From 2009 to 2017, emissions from placer and quartz mining have varied from year to year depending on the amount of mining activity in Yukon. Overall, mining emissions ranged from 10 to 15% of Yukon’s total emissions over this period.

    Graph of mining emissions in kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent against total Yukon emissions from 2009 to 2017. Minining emissions stay at around 100 while total emissions are between 600 and 800.

    How are Yukon’s emissions calculated?

    Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions are calculated using two main sources of information to provide the most accurate picture of Yukon’s emissions:

    • the Government of Canada’s National Inventory Report , which reports greenhouse gas emissions across the country; and
    • information about fossil fuel sales in Yukon collected by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

    Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions only account for emissions that are produced within Yukon’s borders. For example, a truck that drives from British Columbia to Yukon to deliver food will produce greenhouse gas emissions in both British Columbia and Yukon. By looking at truck logs that report how many kilometres were driven in Yukon, we can figure out how much of the truck’s emissions count toward Yukon’s total. Greenhouse gas emissions are tracked and reported on the basis of political borders to avoid double counting when reporting Canadian or global emissions.

    See the latest report on Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    What are the Government of Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    In 2018, emissions from the Government of Yukon’s operations made up approximately 5% of Yukon’s total greenhouse gas emissions at 32.5 kilotonnes. The Government of Yukon’s emissions mainly come from building heating, followed by transportation, electricity and other sources such as refrigerants and waste.

    Between 2010 and 2018, emissions from the Government of Yukon’s operations increased by 4.9%. However, emissions peaked in 2013 and decreased 3.8% between 2013 and 2018. Given that most of the Government of Yukon’s emissions come from heating and powering buildings, the Government has set a target to reduce emissions from its buildings by 30% by 2030, compared to 2010 emissions.

    Graph of Government of Yukon greenhouse gas emissions by source. Transportation is 33 per cent, building heat is 58 per cent, electricity is 5 per cent and other is 4 per cent.
    Graph of total Government of Yukon greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2018. Peak emissions are in 2013 and 2014, dropping off steadily until 2016 and then rising again.