Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the Yukon Legislative Assembly – Climate Change in Yukon
Climate Change in Yukon
(2017 December Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Yukon Legislative Assembly)
14 February 2018
Michael Ferguson, Chartered Professional AccountantCPA, Chartered AccountantCA
Fellow Chartered Professional AccountantFCPA, Fellow Chartered AccountantFCA (New Brunswick)
Auditor General of Canada
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be in Whitehorse today to discuss our report on climate change in Yukon. This report was submitted on December 5th of last year in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Joining me today is Casey Thomas, the principal responsible for the audit.
Research shows that climate change is happening faster in the North than anywhere else in Canada. Yukon is experiencing significant changes, which are affecting its land, wildlife, and people. These changes can damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and traditional ways of life.
In 2016, many legislative audit offices across Canada decided to look at the issue of climate change, and they developed similar audit approaches and questions to examine climate change action within their governments. As part of this initiative, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada decided to do federal and territorial climate change audits. To date, 10 out of 13 jurisdictions have submitted their audit reports, and a report summarizing these audits will be issued in the spring.
In this audit, we looked at the Government of Yukon’s efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We noted that the government had created a climate change strategy and made seventy commitments to respond to climate change. These were good first steps in providing leadership and direction.
However, the commitments were not ranked, and most did not have milestones or completion dates, which would make it difficult to measure progress.
The Climate Change Secretariat also prepared two reports on the government’s progress on its climate change commitments, but these reports were not clear or consistent. For example, the reporting on the government’s seventy formal climate change commitments was mixed in with reporting on other climate change activities. This made it difficult to follow progress on the commitments themselves.
One of our most concerning findings was that the departments of Environment; Energy, Mines and Resources; and Community Services had gathered and produced information on adapting to climate change but had taken little concrete action.
For instance, in 2009, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources assessed how climate change was affecting Yukon’s trees, but it failed to implement measures that were recommended in the assessment. In another instance, between 2011 and 2016, the Department of Community Services produced information to help communities understand whether they were at risk for forest fires and floods, but they did not produce this information for all communities.
Although gathering information is an important step, it is not enough. The benefits of the information can be fully realized only when it is used to take concrete action.
We also concluded that the four departments that we looked at had not done enough to meet the government’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Either the departments did not meet many of the government’s twelve targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or they were unable to measure their progress against those targets.
The departments need to turn their commitments into concrete action to successfully adapt to the impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We made four recommendations to help the four departments plan and lead climate change efforts. All of the departments have agreed to implement our recommendations.
This concludes my opening statement. We would be happy to answer any questions the Committee may have. Thank you.