Modelling emissions reduction pathways in the Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) GNWT is reviewing its 2030 Energy Strategy and Climate Change Strategic Framework (CCSF), which were both released in 2018.

The Northwest Territories (NWT) has committed to a greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. But Canada and the world are different now than they were when both strategies were released. Since then, the Government of Canada has set more ambitious targets – increasing its 2030 emissions target to 40-45% below 2005 levels and setting a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Canada’s new emissions targets impacts the NWT and its energy and climate change policies. What will it take to meet these new targets? The GNWT commissioned a study in 2022-2023 to analyze and answer two questions:

  • What is the gap between where the NWT’s GHG emissions are headed in response to existing policies and emissions reduction target?
  • What are the costs of achieving various GHG emissions scenarios?


To answer these questions, four emissions reduction scenarios for the NWT were examined.

  • Business-as-usual: In this scenario, current policies and actions wouldn’t change much and would be enough for the NWT to reach its current GHG emissions target by 2030.
  • NWT target: The territory achieves its 2030 target (30 percent below 2005 levels) and net zero by 2050.
  • NWT target – excluding industry: The territory achieves its 2030 target and net-zero emissions in 2050 – excluding the mining and oil and gas sectors.
  • Federal target: The NWT adopts and reaches a higher emissions target for 2030 (45 percent below 2005 levels) and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Key findings

  • The NWT is on track to meet its 2030 GHG emissions target. However, meeting a 45 percent below 2005 levels target would require additional emissions reduction efforts by the NWT.
  • The gap between where the NWT’s GHG emissions are headed under current policies and actions and reaching net-zero in 2050 is large and would require substantial investment in the NWT to close.
  • Policymakers looking to achieve substantial GHG emissions reductions in the NWT should focus on four technological options to get there:
    • Maximizing the use of biomass to heat buildings.
    • Electrify end uses for transportation and heating with clean power.
    • Developing more clean power (wind, solar, hydro, energy storage solutions)
    • After 2030, using suitable liquid biofuels for any remaining conventional technologies such as fossil fuel electricity generation in remote communities, heavy duty transportation, and building heating.
  • While this analysis focused on changes needed to decarbonize NWT energy systems, it also notes that NWT policymakers could also investigate options for carbon dioxide removals (CDR) to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in geological, terrestrial or ocean reservoirs. The study says that CDR is needed to counterbalance any remaining emissions coming from sources that are hard to decarbonize.

Read the full study here.