Northern premiers look for green funds

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - The premiers of Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories say they will lobby the federal government to help them develop renewable energy projects and ensure northerners can adapt to the effects of climate change.

Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland, Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak and Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie released two northern strategies after holding a planning session in Yellowknife.

Under one plan, the three premiers agreed to work closely with local, aboriginal, federal and international governments on the issue of climate-change adaptation.

In the other strategy, the premiers said they want to develop more hydroelectric, solar and biomass energy projects in the North, where many communities rely on diesel and often face higher energy costs.

"Working towards less dependence on fossil fuels is our mission," Aariak told reporters.

The premiers said they are continuing to look at projects such as building a wind-diesel hybrid system in the N.W.T.'s Beaufort Delta, expanding the Taltson hydroelectric dam, and harnessing geothermal energy from the former Con Mine in Yellowknife.

But northern governments cannot complete these projects alone, so Aariak said they will be lobbying the federal government for financial support.

"Our territorial dollars cannot cover the... high costs of hydro and other green energy initiatives, so we still very much need to have a dialogue with the federal government," she said.

Roland said although there may be a power shift in Ottawa after the federal election, the planning session will be useful when they approach the new government.

"Even though an election's going on, we know we need to do our legwork," Roland said.

"When we know who's going to be the new minister responsible for that area, we got to get into the door and we have to put our case forward."

The meeting may be the last pan-northern premiers' meeting for Fentie, who announced earlier that he will not be seeking re-election.

Members of the governing Yukon Party will select a new leader on May 28, in time for a territorial election that is widely expected to take place this fall.

But regardless of who becomes Yukon's next premier, Fentie said the work he has done with the other northern premiers will likely not change.

"Though I don't have a crystal ball and I'm not in the heads of others, I can tell you that this work has produced great results for the Yukon," Fentie told CBC News.

"There's certainly no reason today to be concerned about others coming forward in leading the Yukon territory that would stand down from this work."


in Year