North

Yukon MLAs unanimous in declaring climate emergency

Yukon MLAs have voted unanimously in favour of a motion to declare a climate change emergency in the territory. At least one politician says it makes Yukon the first territory or province to make such a declaration.

'There is no question that climate change is happening faster in the North,' environment minister says

Environment Minister Pauline Frost introduced a motion that 'recognizes that Yukon is experiencing the impacts of a climate change emergency.' The motion was later amended to 'declare a climate emergency.' (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Yukon MLAs voted unanimously on Thursday in favour of a motion to declare a climate emergency in the territory.

"There is no question that climate change is happening faster in the North," Environment Minister Pauline Frost said in the Legislature.

"Many of the changes we are experiencing now are unprecedented, in terms of scope and speed. My elders lived through winter temperatures that tomorrow's children may never experience. We are seeing wildlife and plant species claim habitat in places they haven't before."

Frost initially introduced a motion that "recognizes that Yukon is experiencing the impacts of a climate change emergency" and promised continued action to reduce greenhouse gases, pursue renewable energy and build a green economy.

But NDP Leader Kate White said the motion didn't quite go far enough. She suggested the motion should more clearly "declare a climate emergency."

"On some issues there is no middle ground and there's no room for compromise. And I believe that climate change is one of those issues," White said.

"It's one line, but this is the most powerful line that we will ever be judged on."

'On some issues there is no middle ground, and there's no room for compromise,' said NDP Leader Kate White. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

MLAs then voted unanimously in favour of the amended motion. White says that makes Yukon the first province or territory to make such a declaration.

Last month, the City of Whitehorse made a similar declaration, following the lead of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon, earlier this year.

In June, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada.

White acknowledged that the declaration may be largely symbolic.

"Perhaps it is. But a lot of what we do in this house is symbolic," she said.   

"We have the ability to lead by example. So what better way could we do that than by showing that Yukon is serious, that we're serious about climate change, we're serious about the climate crisis, and that we're serious enough that we are willing to declare a climate emergency." 

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