The federal government is expected to approve international measures this week that would reduce the environmental impact of Arctic shipping but would cost northern families hundreds of dollars a year. Ships are frames by pieces of melting sea ice in Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada expected to support heavy fuel ban in Arctic despite costs to northerners

Transport Canada says higher fuel prices will also affect mining companies and governments

The federal government is expected to support international measures that would reduce the environmental impact of Arctic shipping but would cost northern families hundreds of dollars a year.

On Monday, the International Maritime Organization is to begin considering how to eliminate the use of heavy fuel oil in ships sailing Arctic waters.

Arctic countries have already agreed to the move in principle, but the meeting is to set terms for the fuel’s phaseout. Heavy fuel oil, or HFO, is considered a major spill risk and a source of black carbon, which hastens the melting of sea ice.

“HFO constitutes the bottom of the barrel when it comes to shipping fuel,” said Dan Hubbell of the Ocean Conservancy. “It’s cheap, it’s dirty and it’s very persistent.”

Hubbell said a moderate spill in Russia in 2003 had big impacts still visible more than a decade later on marine mammals. The fuel is already banned in the Antarctic.

But replacement fuels are more expensive. Transport Canada has analyzed what higher costs would mean for Arctic communities, which depend on supplies ranging from dry goods to construction materials that arrive by sea.

It concluded the average Nunavut household would see an increase of up to $649 a year. Sealifts used by families to bring in bulk supplies of non-perishable commodities from the south would cost an extra $1,000 for a six-metre shipping container.

More than half of Eastern Arctic households are already considered severely food insecure, meaning they can’t always count on having enough food for their next meal.

Transport Canada says higher fuel prices will also affect mining companies and governments.

“A ban on HFO in the Arctic resulting in higher shipping costs passed on to the consumer would have a significant impact on households and communities,” the report says. ”This could include direct and indirect effects on the health and quality of life of Indigenous and Inuit peoples living in the Arctic.”

READ MORE: ‘Not what it used to be:’ Warm Arctic autumn creates ice hazards for Inuit

Six out of eight Arctic countries currently support the ban. Russia is opposed and Canada has said it won’t announce its position until the meeting begins.

But in a telephone call with stakeholders last week, officials said Canada will side with the majority.

“They did confirm that they would be supporting the ban,” said Andrew Dumbrille of the World Wildlife Fund, who was on the call.

“Everybody else heard that too. It was pretty clear that’s the Canadian position.”

Neither the Nunavut government nor Nunavut Tunngavik, which oversees the Nunavut land claim, was available for comment.

The land-claim group has supported the ban in the past before the costs were analyzed.

Both Dumbrille and Hubbell agree the federal government should ease the cost concerns for northerners.

“The federal government needs to step up and manage the cost so it isn’t passed on to northerners,” Dumbrille said. “The environmental benefits are clear.”

The meeting is also to consider what makes up a heavy fuel oil. Regulations reducing the allowable amount of sulphur in fuel came into effect Jan. 1, but research has found that many new blends created to meet the new rules still emit black carbon.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Arctic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New immigrants to Victoria have online options to combat isolation

The Inter-Cultural Association is going digital to comply with COVID-19 standards

VicPD expands online reporting to keep 911 call-takers free during pandemic

Incidents can be reported online if no information is known of a suspect

Big band fundraiser show at Dunnet theatre rescheduled for Sept. 26

Jazz singer Joe Coughlin, band leader Phil Dwyer remain booked for show

Minor earthquake hits Greater Victoria Saturday morning

Earthquake ‘lightly felt’ in the area, Earthquake Canada says

“Isolation is normal for us,” says Saanich dad with cystic fibrosis

Gordon Head man says now’s the time to approve life-saving cystic fibrosis drug

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Most Read