The Northwest Territories is experiencing some of the most dramatic effects of climate change in Canada, but the territorial government department supposed to lead the fight to reduce greenhouse gasses and adapt to the changes has not done so, according to a new report from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

The audit, released Wednesday, covered two territorial government departments: Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) and Infrastructure.

It details how ENR failed to make substantial, comprehensive policy changes related to climate change in the territory, creating a "piecemeal" approach from various government departments and communities.

The department has not yet put out a comprehensive climate change strategy, even though one was promised in 2007. That's left others to deal with the effects of climate change on their own — even though the environment department is supposed to take the lead on this file, the audit found.

"The measures taken by selected Government of the Northwest Territories departments were not adequate to fulfill the government's climate change commitments to reduce territorial greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change impacts in the Northwest Territories," the audit reads.

Other findings from the report include:

  • The department has not identified the biggest climate change risks in the territory;
  • the department has not identified what needs to be done to adapt to the effects of climate change; and
  • the department has not identified the supports that departments and communities need to adapt to climate change.

To determine whether the government was succeeding in leading the fight against climate change, auditors used the territorial government's own objectives as benchmarks, Wheeler said. In several cases, it did not meet those goals.

No adaptation plan for public buildings

As for the Department of Infrastructure, the audit looked at how it adapted roads and buildings to increased snowfall and melting permafrost — the two most critical climate change-related issues identified by the department.

The audit found that the infrastructure department did not have an overall climate change adaptation plan for public buildings. The department has rolled out new building standards and had inspection programs in place to monitor the effects of climate change, but the audit identified issues with following up on those inspections.

The Northwest Territories government agreed with all eight recommendations contained in the report. It says it will roll out a comprehensive climate change framework in 2018, which will address many of the concerns brought up by auditors.

A spokeswoman for Robert C. McLeod, the territory's environment minister, said that he would not be available for comment on the findings Wednesday.

A public hearing on the auditor general's report is set to happen in the next few months.