The territorial government is receiving $23 million in federal funding, over four years, for initiatives that reduce the NWT’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The money has already been earmarked for five separate projects and programs. Catherine McKenna, the federal climate change minister, announced the funding in Yellowknife on Thursday morning.

If all of the programs supported by the cash are fully subscribed, the territorial government says the NWT’s emissions would be reduced by 30 kilotonnes – representing six percent of its stated 517-kilotonne target by 2030.

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“These five programs show we can be smarter about doing things and will make a real difference,” said McKenna.

The initiatives to be funded through Thursday’s announcement are:

  • A range of Arctic Energy Alliance initiatives to be published shortly;
  • Retrofitting of NWT public housing and biomass for Yellowknife;
  • Retrofitting of two ferries and a tugboat to make them more energy-efficient;
  • New grants to help community and Indigenous governments fund energy efficiency projects; and
  • A territorial reforestation program.

Later on Thursday, Wally Schumann – the NWT’s infrastructure minister – acknowledged the territory had been due to receive a further $8 million for a sixth project, but the federal government was waiting for clarity regarding that sixth item before moving ahead. The minister could not immediately say which project this was.

The Arctic Energy Alliance – now headed by Yellowknife’s outgoing mayor, Mark Heyck – will receive $9.1 million over four years to support energy efficiency programs, conservations, and work which helps residents and businesses switch to renewable and alternative energy sources.

The additional money represents a considerable funding increase for the alliance, which says it currently operates on an annual budget of around $3 million.

Details of enhanced programs to be offered by the alliance will be published in the coming months, a territorial government briefing note issued on Thursday stated.

Grants for governments

Two retrofitting projects will aim to increase energy efficiency: one will work to improve energy efficiency in the territory’s public housing while supporting a biomass-based district heating system in Yellowknife; the other will switch three of the territory’s ships to more efficient engines while upgrading their hydrodynamics (the equivalent of aerodynamics, making the vessels more efficient).

The NWT’s community and Indigenous governments will also be able to apply for new grants to fund projects which reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lastly, some of the money will be used to help the territorial government regrow forest in a 120-hectare area of land and thin another 60-hectare area (which creates room for growth).

The federal $23-million contribution is being augmented by money from other sources, including just over $7 million from the territorial government, for a total spend of $42.2 million if all programs are fully subscribed.

Thursday’s announcement comes five months after the Northwest Territories revealed its 2030 Energy Strategy and an accompanying framework for addressing climate change.

Those documents committed the NWT to a 30-percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels – a target staff admitted was ‘aspirational’ in nature without significant federal backing.

Almost half of the overall emissions goal is predicated upon the Taltson Hydro Expansion – a vastly expensive project connecting the NWT to the south in one, cohesive grid – being built.

That project, priced at more than $1 billion, has been a territorial ambition for years but remains nowhere near being funded.

McKenna is primarily in the Northwest Territories to sign the Edéhzhíe Establishment Agreement, which turns part of the Dehcho into a National Wildlife Area.

That signing was due to take place last month but was temporarily pushed back while McKenna “assisted with unanticipated government work.”