Developing wetlands would be a major source of carbon emissions, CPAWS Yukon report shows.
November 15, 2022
Industrial developments in the Yukon’s wetlands could lead to substantial releases of carbon, at a time when the Government of Yukon has pledged steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Future placer mining developments in the Indian River Watershed alone could release 575 kilotonnes of CO2—as much carbon as the yearly emissions from 125,000 cars, or running Whitehorse’s liquified natural gas plant around the clock, every day, for a decade. These are key findings from The Yukon’s climate blind spot, a report released today by the CPAWS Yukon. The report shows that wetland conservation needs to be a key piece of the Yukon’s response to the climate change emergency.
CPAWS Yukon’s report focused on the impacts of developments in fens, bogs and swamps: wetlands that contain carbon-rich peat. Peat slowly accumulates carbon over millennia, but disturbing peatlands can transform them from carbon stores to carbon emitters. CPAWS Yukon worked with wetland maps and scientific literature to estimate the amount of carbon stored in peatlands in the Indian River Watershed, south of Dawson City. The report then projected how much carbon could be released, based on the amount of placer mining that the Dawson Land Use Plan could allow in the future.
The report comes as Egypt hosts the COP 27 climate change summit, and a year after countries around the world pledged to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The Yukon has pledged to cut its emissions 45% by 2030, but emissions from peatland development aren’t part of this target, and are not counted at all. “Preventing the worst impacts of climate change depends on keeping carbon in the ground, but the Government of Yukon keeps approving new mining developments in wetlands. That only adds more fuel to the fire,” said Malkolm Boothroyd, CPAWS Yukon’s Campaigns Coordinator and the report’s lead author.
CPAWS Yukon’s report focused on the impacts to peatlands from one industry in a small part of the Yukon, but these risks are not confined to the Indian River. Developments like open-pit mining and road construction can impact the health of peatlands too.“Wetlands are more than reservoirs of carbon,” Boothroyd said. “Wetland ecosystems are rich in wildlife, and are places where many people go to hunt, fish and feel connected with the natural world. The Yukon should rise to the urgency of the moment, and take leadership to conserve these peatland ecosystems.”
The Yukon’s Climate Blind Spot:
Images of wetlands and placer mining available for media use at: https://drive.google.com/
Adil Darvesh, Communications Manager
867-393-8080 x 9