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.”
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.”
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Climate kicks off Canada’s French-language leaders’ debate, but no mention of Inuit or Arctic, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Sweden’s Crown princess calls for action in Arctic during Iceland conference, The Independent Barents Observer
Norway: Norway to focus on civil society, press freedom as chair of Barents Euro-Arctic Council, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Climate change threatens security and industry, Russian PM says, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden
United States: Drought causing water shortages in Southcentral Alaska communities, Alaska Public Media