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Ottawa funding $8M program to reduce NWT industry emissions

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Ottawa will provide $8 million in new funding for a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest Territories.

The money will be directed toward reducing emissions from NWT buildings and industry.

Projects eligible for cash include those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating, electricity, transportation, and industrial processes.

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While the Arctic Energy Alliance has announced new programs to help individuals and small businesses, this funding is intended to address a gap in services for larger companies and groups, the governments said.

"If you don't have a plan for the environment, you don't have a plan for the economy," said NWT MP Michael McLeod, speaking on behalf of Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of environment and climate change.

The funding is designed to decrease the cost of upgrading to energy-efficient systems like space heating boilers and district heating systems. 

"We encourage applicants from the Northwest Territories businesses, industry, building owners, and non-profit organizations that want to be a part of the solution to climate change," said Wally Schumann, the NWT's minister of infrastructure and industry.

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The money is spread over three years. Applicants are being accepted as of now, with four approval periods per year.

Common applications are expected to involve switches to LED lighting and biomass, or help paying for insulation.

Last month, a major new report concluded Canada's northern territories are warming at three times the global rate.

The territory has an initial four-year plan to address climate change and help its residents adapt, while a broader framework to guide its response to climate change up until 2030 was introduced last year.

A form of carbon tax is to begin operating in the NWT from July, though the territory intends for much of the tax to be revenue-neutral – meeting Ottawa's demand for the introduction of such a tax while attempting to shield residents from even higher living costs than they already face.

Five other federally funded programs to help the NWT meet its climate change goals were announced last fall. Alongside Friday's announcement, they amount to around $31 million in investment.

However, the NWT government has consistently stated the biggest contributor to emissions reduction would be hundreds of millions in federal funding for the Taltson hydro expansion.

While Friday's announcement involves a program likely to cut emissions by up to 20,000 tonnes – well under two percent of the NWT's 2030 target – Taltson's expansion would deliver 240,000 tonnes of reductions per year under territorial forecasts, which is almost half of the NWT's target.

Intended to connect South Slave hydro power to the North Slave grid, the Taltson expansion is billed as introducing cheaper, greener fuel for Yellowknife and mining projects to its northeast.

Small steps toward embarking upon the expansion have begun, but the project remains almost a billion dollars away from completion – a figure well beyond the territory's means alone.