/Algonquin Highlands council accepts climate change plan 

Algonquin Highlands council accepts climate change plan 

By Chad Ingram

Algonquin Highlands councillors accepted a corporate climate change mitigation plan for the township from the county’s climate change co-ordinator during an Aug. 13 meeting, and the next step in that process will be the creation of a working group consisting of municipal staff from throughout the county that will work on specifics for implementation of
plans for Haliburton County and its lower-tier municipalities.
The county hired climate change co-ordinator Korey McKay last fall, and McKay has been working on those plans during most of the past year. The first step was taking greenhouse gas inventories for the county and each of its lower tiers, then having the councils for each municipal government set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The first phase of the project is the creation of corporate climate change mitigation plan for the county and each of the four lower tiers, corporate greenhouse gas emissions being those that are produced by the municipal governments themselves.
As for the plan for Algonquin Highlands, “It outlines potential actions that the township can take to reach or exceed their target and reduce their corporate greenhouse gas emissions,” McKay told council.  The largest chunk of Algonquin Highlands’ corporate greenhouse gas emissions come from its landfills, which constitute 79 per cent of emissions. Its vehicle fleet accounts for 14 per cent of emissions, and its buildings seven per cent. The greenhouse gas inventory was done using 2018 data as a baseline, and the reduction targets the township has set include a 12 per cent reduction in emissions for landfills; a 10 per cent reduction for fleet vehicles; and a 15 per cent reductions for buildings, by the year 2030.
McKay said the potential actions laid out in the plan for Algonquin Highlands are similar to those in the plans for the county’s three other lower-tier municipalities, as well as the upper-tier level of the county itself.  “So a lot of the work can be shared amongst us all,” she said.
Some of those potential actions include transitioning to low-carbon and
renewal sources of energy in municipal buildings, and transitioning to low-carbon vehicles and fuels for the municipality’s fleet. The reduction of fuel consumption through anti-idling policies and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations that could be used for the township’s light-duty vehicles, as well as by the public, are other recommendations.
For landfills, it’s suggested that reduction targets be met there by the  diversion of organic and yard waste out of municipally owned facilities, including through the encouragement of more at-home composting, which emits far less methane into the air than burying organic waste at a landfill.
“This is probably the greatest action we can take when it comes to  greenhouse gas reduction potential,” McKay said, adding some of that would be reliant on cost-effective programming from the province.  The plan also recommends that Algonquin Highlands begin building climate change mitigation initiatives into plans and policies such as its official plan and asset management plan, and at the county level, a pilot project will see staff include a climate change lens in their reports to council, and the county intends to share lessons learned with its four municipalities.  Councillor Jennifer Dailloux noted there has been some push-back against the promotion of at-home composting in cottage country communities,  which are also typically home to a black bear population.  “The bear country piece, I think, is going to have to figure in that conversation, and some potential solutions will have to be considered for that,” Dailloux said.  McKay said those types of solutions could be discussed by the working group, which will be populated mostly by municipal staff, and foster cross-county dialogue.
“This work will touch each of their departments,” Mayor Carol Moffatt said of the staff who will comprise the working group. Moffatt wondered how councillors would be kept informed on the activities of the working group.
“What’s the plan for reporting back and getting feedback from council
throughout the development?” she asked. “I mean, there’s a lot of work
here, there’s a lot of money here as well in developing and achieving
this work.”  “The plan is to be included in the annual budget planning process,” McKay said, adding that staff would work to create specific work plans that would be brought to council. “ . . . Each of these different actions as they are sort of built upon will be brought to council separately, one by one.”
Councillor Lisa Barry wondering about the potential for energy generation projects, such as  solar or wind farms.  McKay said the possible creation of any of those larger-scale type of energy projects would be included in community plans, which will be created after the corporate climate change mitigation plans, and will address the community and the county at large, as opposed to just municipal facilities and operations.