Nunavut premier talks climate change ahead of first ministers meeting

As Canada's first ministers prepare for this week's meeting, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna say he opposes a carbon tax. 'Right now, it does not factor in the challenges of living in Northern and remote communities.'

'It does not factor in the challenges of living in Northern and remote communities,' says Peter Taptuna

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna says he plans to make it clear that climate targets need to be met using methods that don't put the North's 'delicate economy' at risk, when he attends the first ministers meeting in Vancouver this Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna says while the North sees the devastating effects of climate change first-hand, measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions cannot put the "very delicate economy" in the territories at risk. 

When Taptuna attends the first ministers meeting in Vancouver this Thursday, he says he will bring the message that "climate change mitigation and adaptation needs to go hand-in-hand with responsible economic development," while pushing for the federal government to support an upgrade to Nunavut's aging diesel power generators.

"I will raise the issue of a pan-Canadian price on carbon," Taptuna said in the legislature. "Right now, it does not factor in the challenges of living in Northern and remote communities." 

That's one of the items on the agenda for the one-day, closed-door meeting, which — if early indications hold true — will be a challenge for the Liberal government.

'We've made it pretty clear'

In the legislature Tuesday, Taptuna was probed further on his stance on climate change issues, including the big one — the possibility of a carbon tax. 

Nunavut's premier would not speculate on how his fellow provincial and territorial leaders might be leaning on the controversial issue, except to say that the territories are in agreement. 

"We've made it pretty clear between the three territories ... at the Quebec City climate change conference that we oppose a carbon tax being imposed," he said.

"We do have a very delicate economy and more taxes put forth to our small businesses and our people is very damaging."

MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, who represents the land-locked community of Baker Lake, raised the issue, adding that he personally sees the need for a balanced approach. 

"As a lifelong hunter, I am also very aware of the importance of realistic and responsible actions to address climate change, given its impact on the Arctic," he said. 

"However, Nunavut itself hardly compares with major industrialized jurisdictions when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions."

Energy generation a key issue

While Taptuna says Nunavut is "a long way off" from relying on renewable energy, such as tidal, solar and wind power, the premier says one of the main ways the territory can decrease its environmental impact is by updating its system of power generation. 

Nunavut does not work on a power grid, instead relying on each remote community's "old, breaking down" power plants, explained Taptuna. 

"We have old generating systems and generating plants that are from the '60s. They're not fuel efficient. They're not economical," he said.

"One of the things, of course, is that we want to modernize to new generators, newer engines so we could contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions."

Taptuna says he hopes the federal government will recognize and financially support Nunavut's desire to upgrade its inefficient diesel-fuelled power plants.


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