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Partners for Climate Protection

City of Whitehorse, YT

Milestone Five

Population PCP member since GHG reduction target
23,276 1995
  • Whitehorse is currently working on setting new targets based on 2014 data.

The Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse

We're looking at goals and targets for the whole community, and an action strategy for city operations. We want to pursue ambitious goals for Whitehorse-such as to have zero waste by the year 2040-and identify the best ways the city can contribute to achieve them.
Dan Curtis, Mayor of Whitehorse


The City of Whitehorse has been active in sustainability planning since 2004 when it approved its first local action plan. Since then, the city has developed and implemented plans that cover solid waste, sustainable transportation, and energy management. The city operates under the guidance of the 2008 Strategic Sustainability Plan, which outlines seven key principles and 53 specific actions. The plan is currently being updated and the city expects a draft to be available by the end of 2015.

Whitehorse received support from FCM's Green Municipal Fund for Milestones 1-3 and for its residential curbside organics program.

Key projects and results

Canada Games Centre Retrofit

The Canada Games Centre opened in 2005 and at a size of almost 22,000 square feet, accounts for almost half of the energy used by Whitehorse's municipal facilities. In 2010, the city implemented a number of energy conservation measures to reduce costs and emissions from the building. These include: using waste heat from the ice-making process to supplement heating of the lap pool and to pre-heat incoming air; lighting upgrades; and improved HVAC controls and modifications to the air handling units.


  • GHG emissions from avoided fuel use have declined from about 982 tonnes per year in 2012 to just under 300 tonnes in 2014.   


  • Many of the upgrades focused on reducing the use of fuel oil and although those costs have declined, electricity costs have risen. The overall effect has been a cost saving.   


  • Improved lighting and indoor air quality make for a better user experience at the centre.

Building and Plumbing Bylaw

Whitehorse amended its Building and Plumbing Bylaw in 2009 to incorporate energy efficiency requirements. In 2014, the bylaw was amended again to require all new homes to have an EnerGuide rating and label. Home builders work with energy advisors to produce the EnerGuide report. The bylaw is among the strongest building code in the country for energy efficiency requirements and is on par with the National Energy Code for Buildings. It applies to all new home construction and heating systems, including oil and propane forced air, baseboard heating, pellet or wood stoves and air and ground-source heat pumps.


  • Data in 2009 showed that the average Whitehorse home with a forced air oil furnace produced about 11 tonnes of GHG emissions per year. After the bylaw was enacted, the average GHG emissions associated with conventional homes with forced-air heating dropped by more than half to less than 5 tonnes annually.   


  • In 2009, the average home with an oil forced air system cost about $5,400 a year on average in fuel oil and maintenance costs. After the bylaw was introduced,, new homes with similar systems cost an average of only $2,400.   


  • Despite higher initial costs to build to higher standards, residents can quickly recoup costs through lower heating and maintenance bills. EnerGuide rated homes can also fetch higher resale values.
  • Home indoor air quality has also improved.

Solid Waste Action Plan

In 2012, there were many compelling reasons for the city to focus on alternatives to solely relying on landfills for waste disposal. Annual waste generation had nearly doubled since 2000, including a 235% increase in waste from the construction and demolition sector. A 2010 waste audit revealed that 67% of waste sent to the landfill could be recycled or composted. Whitehorse's 2013 Solid Waste Action Plan (SWAP) provides timelines, costs and recommendations for achieving 50% waste diversion by 2015 and zero waste by 2040. The plan includes new regulations on tipping fees, source separation and diversion initiatives, an upgrade to the composting facility, a pilot organics program for businesses and multi-unit housing, and educational programs.


  • Organics collection has increased from about 600 tonnes in 2005 to 2,500 tonnes in 2011.
  • Diverting organic material reduces the amount of contaminants (leachate) produced by the landfill.   


  • The Solid Waste Action Plan provides a sustainable alternative to a landfill, which can be expensive considering a A new landfill would cost approximately $13.7 million to construct. Annual liability costs also increase, up to $13.5 million, as well as the cost to close the existing landfill.
  • Recycled materials such as paper, glass, and aluminium, will bring money into the community and, as volumes increase, revenues and logistics, planning and management jobs within the sector will increase.  


  • Whitehorse has a steady source of local soil and compost product available for community gardening and local agriculture.
  • The compost facility and program demonstrates leadership to other communities (Northern or not). It  shows that, despite challenges in climate and scale, full scale composting is part of a complete solid waste management and emissions reduction strategy.


  • Transportation has always been challenging for Canada's northern communities. The need for vehicles, colder climates and typically longer distances all pose unique challenges.
  • Given current resource levels, monitoring community GHG emissions is an ongoing challenge however the city does monitor programs, policies and actions taken by its partners. The city is now working with its local utilities to collect municipal data.

Lessons learned

  • Engage the public when promoting programs to the community, especially ones that involve a behaviour change. Good communication is important. Provide the right level of information, at the right time, in the right style. Ensure the required staff and resources are considered and accounted for.
  • Keep partners and stakeholders informed and engaged at all stages of a project's implementation. 

Page Updated: 08/12/2015