Resource extraction in North needs tools to fight climate change, says Canada’s transportation minister

Omar Alghabra, Canada’s minster of transportation, was in Yellowknife on Wednesday to tout a critical minerals strategy proposed in the federal government’s recent budget. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

Canada’s transportation minister says all economic sectors — including resource extraction in the North — need their own tools to lower emissions and fight climate change.

That’s why, Minister Omar Alghabra said during a press conference that he flew to Yellowknife for, the federal budget includes tax credits and incentives for companies to research and develop technology that’ll reduce emissions.

“That’s the best way to deal with it,” he said, standing in front of an Air Tindi plane at Det’on Cho Logistics. “The challenge to address climate change …revolves around changing how we do things in our economy and how we consume things.”

Alghabra was in Yellowknife on Wednesday to tout a new critical minerals strategy for which the federal budget allocates $3.8 billion. Critical minerals are used in everything from phones to electric vehicles and airplanes, and a statement from the federal government says the strategy would help provide minerals needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Economy vs. emissions paradox

Last week, the N.W.T. government began gathering input from community members on its Mackenzie Valley Highway Project, which aims — among other things — to increase petroleum and mineral resource development. Not all mining in the N.W.T. is for critical minerals.

The two-lane gravel road would span 321 kilometres from Wrigley to Norman Wells, and has a $700-million price tag that the federal government contributed $102 million toward back in 2018.

When asked how a highway that’ll increase greenhouse gas emissions fits into Canada’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the federal transportation minister said on Wednesday that Ottawa works with the territorial government to identify the “right type of projects” that’ll meet reduction goals.

“There’s no one magic wand or silver bullet that’s going to address it. It’s going to require governments working together,” he said.

Alghabra also noted the federal government has set targets for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that would be, if powered by fuel, a large source of resource development emissions. In the recent budget, the federal government proposed a new subsidy program worth $547.5 million over four years for the purchase of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.

“We’re investing in testing, we’re investing in research, we’re investing in piloting,” Alghabra said.

“If fighting climate change was easy it would have been done long ago. Climate change is an existential threat, it’s really difficult for all of us as a society, as economy, as governments, to tackle it, but we’re committed to it.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Ottawa blocks Chinese takeover of Nunavut gold mine project after national security review, CBC News

Greenland/Denmark: Greenland and Denmark finalize cooperation agreement on marine pollution response, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, Yle News

Norway: Climate change hits back at Svalbard, coal mine flooded by melting glacier in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Conservation groups sue government over Alaska mining road, The Associated Press

Liny Lamberink, CBC News

Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She previously worked for CBC London as a reporter and newsreader. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

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