Climate change in the Yukon

  • Taking action on climate change
  • Adapting to climate change
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Yukon Climate Leadership Council

  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 the Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, heating, electricity generation and other areas by 45% by 2030;
    • reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the Yukon’s mines per unit of material produced;
    • generate 97% of the electricity on the Yukon’s main grid from renewable sources by 2030 on average;
    • ensure the Yukon is highly resilient to the impacts of climate change by 2030; and
    • build a sustainable green economy.

    Learn more about the 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 the 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 the Yukon?

    We are already experiencing significant changes to our climate. The 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:

    • 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 the 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 the 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 the Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    In the 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 6 per cent, aviation is 6 per cent, mining is 8 per cent, heating is 16 per cent, road transportation is 57 per cent and other is 7 per cent.

    While the Yukon’s total greenhouse gas emissions are 0.1% of Canada’s emissions because of our small population, our per person emissions of around 19 tonnes per person are the 6th 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 the 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 45% lower than they were in 2010.

    Graph showing kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from 2009 to 2019 from 500 to 700 kilotonnes and projected emissions from 2020 to 2030. The projection is 120 kilotonnes higher than the 2030 target for emissions.

    Based on modelling, we estimate that we need to reduce the Yukon’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 342 kilotonnes and that the actions in Our Clean Future will get us 2/3 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 45% 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 2019, emissions from placer and quartz mining have varied from year to year depending on the amount of mining activity in the Yukon. Overall, mining emissions ranged from 8 to 14% of the Yukon’s total emissions over this period.

    Graph of mining emissions in kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent against total Yukon emissions from 2009 to 2019. Mining emissions stay at around 100 while total emissions are between 600 and 800.

    How are the Yukon’s emissions calculated?

    The Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions are calculated using two main sources of information to provide the most accurate picture of the 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 the Yukon collected by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

    The Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions only account for emissions that are produced within the Yukon’s borders. For example, a truck that drives from British Columbia to the Yukon to deliver food will produce greenhouse gas emissions in both British Columbia and the Yukon. By looking at truck logs that report how many kilometres were driven in the Yukon, we can figure out how much of the truck’s emissions count toward the 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 the Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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

    In 2019, Government of Yukon emission reporting was expanded to include both government departments and corporations. As government corporation data was collected for the first time, data for these organizations is not available prior to 2019.

    Emissions from the Government of Yukon’s operations, including government corporations, but excluding electricity generation emissions, made up approximately 6% of the Yukon’s total greenhouse gas emissions at 71.2 kilotonnes.

    Government of Yukon department emissions mainly come from building heating, followed by transportation, electricity and other sources, such as refrigerants and waste.

    Read a report on the Government of Yukon corporate greenhouse gas emissions.

    Graph of Government of Yukon greenhouse gas emissions by source and amount from 2010 to 2019. Departments created around 30 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

  4. Yukon Climate Leadership Council

    The Government of Yukon has established the Yukon Climate Leadership Council.

    The Yukon Climate Leadership Council is a working committee tasked with recommending how to reach the Yukon’s 45% greenhouse gas emission reduction target. This ambitious target will require significant action across the territory.

    Using the current Our Clean Future strategy as a framework, the council will develop plans to reach the 45% reduction target and submit a report of recommendations to the government by May 2022.

    We are seeking a breadth of views for this important work. The council will include representatives from environmental organizations, the renewable energy sector, industry, Yukon University and labour organizations.

    Working towards a 45% reduction in GHG emissions is one important way the government is taking action to mitigate climate change.

    1st Yukon Climate Leadership Council

    Twelve people with diverse backgrounds, knowledge and expertise have been selected for the territory's first Yukon Climate Leadership Council to serve a 1-year term.

    Coral Voss

    Affiliation: Yukon Conservation Society

    Coral Voss is the Executive Director of Yukon Conservation Society. She brings more than 4 years' experience in the Yukon not-for-profit sector. Coral also brings an interdisciplinary research background from her education at UBC and York University in Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. Much of her research has been centred on community, collaboration, knowledge engagement and climate change adaptation. In particular, much of her work has focused on environmental holism, knowledge co-creation, relational bridging between knowledge systems and the impacts of climate change in northern communities.

    David Silas

    Affiliation: Yukon University

    David Silas is from Pelly Crossing, Yukon, and a member of the Wolf Clan, a part of the Selkirk First Nation, and from the Northern Tutchone language group in the central Yukon. David’s grandparents on his mother’s side are David and Martha Silas and mother Pearl Silas; and on his father's side Alex and Richard Van Bibber. In 2018, David finished a Bachelor of Science Degree with the University of Alberta and is currently pursuing his master's. He was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree at home in the Yukon which allowed him to stay near his Traditional Territory and connect with his culture, traditions and land. David has been an active Canadian Ranger for over 13 years and enjoys spending time on the land with friends and family doing season harvesting activities. David views education as a stepping stone for engaging First Nations to get involved in their community and make a difference.

    Forest Pearson

    Affiliation: Professional engineer      

    Forest Pearson is a life-long Yukoner and a professional engineer providing environmental consulting services with Morrison Hershfield in Whitehorse. He has a degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  

    Forest has worked in the environmental consulting industry for almost 25 years, primarily in the Yukon. Much of Forest’s recent work has been for a variety of territorial, municipal and First Nations governments, and utility and private sector clients related to renewable energy projects.

    Outside of his professional practice, Forest has designed and developed high-performance sustainable homes.

    Forest also really enjoys the quality of life brought by riding a bicycle.  

    Hector Campbell

    Affiliation: Yukon Chamber of Commerce - Energy Committee

    Hector Campbell holds 2 degrees: a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's of Business Administration. He has worked in the electricity sector his entire career, of which the last 30 years have been in the Yukon. Hector retired from working full time with a Yukon electrical utility in 2016 and has been working as an energy consultant since that time. He is the past Chair of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce Energy Committee and past Director on the Yukon Chamber of Commerce Board. He was Chair of the Yukon’s Low Carbon Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

    Kim Lisgo

    Affiliation: University of Alberta and Yukon University

    Kim Lisgo is a conservation scientist at the University of Alberta/Yukon University and has been advising decision-makers based on applied research for more than 20 years. Kim has technical expertise with regards to climate change in the context of land management, including tools to address uncertainty and risk. She's passionate about using scientific tools and local knowledge to address the climate crisis, working with community and international partners. Kim has led and worked with several multi-disciplinary research and land planning teams across the boreal forest region of Canada and Alaska, involving government, First Nations, industry and environmental groups. 

    Kirsten Hogan

    Affiliation: Aperture Consulting Inc.

    Kirsten Hogan, P.Eng., is an engineering entrepreneur who founded Aperture Consulting Inc. in 2006. Kirsten earned her Bachelor and Master's of Science in Engineering degrees at the University of Guelph. She currently works as a consulting engineer for Aperture Consulting Inc. and Associated Engineering. Her work in the environmental field has included greenhouse gas quantification, carbon footprint analysis and reduction, energy planning and climate adaptation for clients across western Canada. She's served on various Yukon boards and councils and is the current President of Engineers Yukon. Outside of her professional career, Kirsten is an active volunteer in the Whitehorse community and enjoys the beautiful Yukon wilderness as often as possible with her family and friends. 

    Margret Njootli

    Affiliation: Retired

    Margret Njootli has received diplomas in both the First Nations Management and Renewable Resources Management programs. Her work experience on the land includes parks interpreter at Tombstone Interpretive Centre, Parks Canada, and a fish and wildlife officer. She's worked under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreements, numerous Yukon First Nations’ legislations, and with various NGOs, boards and committees throughout the Yukon.  She's facilitated and coordinated meetings between scientists, stakeholders, governments, boards, committees and Elders to ensure compliance with the First Nations Final Agreements. She brings a wealth of climate change experience and studied the field in her homeland of Crow Flats and the surrounding areas. She looks forward to bringing her wealth of knowledge and experience to the Yukon Climate Leadership Council over the coming year.

    Michael Ross

    Affiliation: Yukon University

    Michael Ross is the Industrial Research Chair in Northern Energy Innovation at Yukon University. His research areas focus on integrating a high penetration of renewable generation in remote communities, diesel efficiencies, demand-side management, smart grids and microgrids. Michael received his Master’s and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at McGill University and his Bachelor of Applied Science at the University of Toronto. He's a registered Professional Engineer with Engineers Yukon, a Registered Professional Electrical Engineer in the State of Alaska, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society and CIGRÉ Canada, and a Level 1 electrician apprentice.

    Rosa Brown

    Affiliation: Vuntut Gwitchin Government

    Rosa Brown is the Energy Coordinator for the Vuntut Gwitchin Government.  She is part of the team that planned, built and now operates Sree Vyah, the Old Crow Solar Project,  and is working toward implementing other community-owned, clean energy alternatives to diesel generation in Old Crow. Rosa holds an Honours Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Guelph, and will complete a Master of Sustainability in Energy Security from the University of Saskatchewan in the spring of 2022. Rosa has called the Yukon home for over 20 years.

    Sean Smith

    Affiliation: Yukon Native Language Centre

    Sean Smith is a Kwanlin Dün First Nation Citizen, born and raised in Kwanlin – Whitehorse, Yukon. Sean’s current role is Immersion Manager at the Yukon Native Language Centre to support Language Revitalization in Yukon First Nations communities. Sean was fortunate to gain teachings at an early age to understand his First Nation culture and pre-history in balance with his western education.  Climate change has been one of Sean’s personal passions to understand how we can learn from history and adopt areas of cultural knowledge to develop the Yukon’s climate change plan going forward for all of our diverse, beautiful people that live in communities across the Yukon. 

    Sruthee Govindaraj

    Affiliation: Core Geoscience Services Inc.

    Sruthee Govindaraj is an Environmental Scientist at Core Geoscience Services Inc., based in Whitehorse, on the Traditional Territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. Sruthee’s background is in contaminated sites, research and development, and climate change and health policy. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Ottawa in Biology, and a Climate Change Policy Post-Graduate Certificate from Yukon University. Sruthee was also one of the co-chairs of the first Yukon Youth Panel on Climate Change. 

    Steve Roddick

    Affiliation: Resilient North Consulting

    Steve Roddick holds a Master's Degree in Public and International Affairs. He's worked across 4 different orders of government, and currently runs a small sustainability consulting firm called Resilient North. His work as a researcher and analyst has taken him to Ottawa, New Delhi and Dhaka, but since 2013 his professional focus has centred on understanding and responding to the impacts of climate change in the Yukon. As a Whitehorse City Councillor (2018 to 2021), Steve successfully championed a motion to declare a climate change emergency and is a strong advocate for ambitious municipal climate action.


Contact 

For questions about climate change in the Yukon, email climatechange@yukon.ca or phone 867-456-5565.