Inuit community turns to solar for sustainable energy in the North

Clyde River, Nunavut – The Inuit community of Clyde River celebrated the installation of solar panels on their Community Hall, another landmark in their fight against seismic blasting and oil exploration that has taken them all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

After working with Greenpeace and the Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop, 27 solar panels are now installed on the Community Hall there, a move that will increase their energy independence as well as their environmental sustainability.

“This is a happy day for Clyde River,” said James Qillaq, the mayor of Clyde River. “The solar panels on our Community Hall will allow us to produce energy with less diesel while saving money at the same time that we reinvest into youth programs. Renewable energy that does not harm nature is exactly what we want for our planet. We are proving that solar energy is a real possibility in the Arctic. Destructive seismic blasting is just not needed.”

In addition to the environmental benefits of installing these solar panels, there are strong financial incentives supporting the project. Solar technology will enable the community to rely less on diesel-generated electricity throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. This will result in a savings of approximately $4,500 CAD a year on the electrical bill for the Community Hall.

To coincide with the completion of this project, Greenpeace released the report Beyond Fossil Fuels – Sustainable Economic Development Opportunities in Eastern Nunavut, developed by the Centre for Sustainable Economy, in consultation with a number of scientists, government sources and individuals in Nunavut.

“Future generations will judge us by how well we treat those least responsible for the climate crisis but suffering the worst of its effects — including the Inuit of Nunavut,” said Daphne Wysham, Climate Justice Campaign Director at the Center for Sustainable Economy and co-author of the report. “We must ensure that the Nunavummiut don’t just survive, with their basic needs protected and assured –we must ensure that they thrive with their culture intact.”

Oscar-winning actor, climate activist and storyteller Emma Thompson recently spent 10 days in Clyde River and on board Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise, participating in a series of community activities and sailing to some of the ecological hotspots under threat from seismic blasting.

“The Arctic is melting largely because of oil and gas consumption,” said Thompson. “The response of gas and oil conglomerates is to rejoice, pile in and seismically blast the place in search for more. It’s a ghastly carousel of destruction and greed. Far in the North, a tiny community is fighting. They’re saying no to the seismic blasting that would destroy their lives. They’re creating their own solar energy supply. They are protecting the Arctic, which means they are protecting our planet. They are doing what successive governments around the world have repeatedly signed up to do and never ever done.”

“It’s time for Trudeau and his fellow power-brokers to pay attention to Clyde River Inuit and follow their example. In the fight against climate change, Clyde River is the truest leader of all,” she adds.

The Inuit of Clyde River will be at the Supreme Court of Canada on November 30 to demand, once again, that the permits issued by the National Energy Board in 2014 to conduct seismic exploration in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait be cancelled.

Seismic blasting — a process of firing extremely loud sounds into the ocean in search for oil and gas — has been successfully stalled in the last two years as a result of a legal challenge launched by Clyde River, meaning bowheads, narwhals, belugas, and other marine mammals are safe from the impacts of the seismic blasts.

“The decision to allow seismic blasting in Baffin Bay despite community opposition was wrong and would have devastating consequences,” said Greenpeace Canada Executive Director Joanna Kerr. “But the Trudeau government can undo the wrong that has been done and uphold the rights of Inuit people to decide on their future and their lands.”

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