By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands councillors chose greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the township during a meeting last week as part of a climate change mitigation plan the County of Haliburton is undertaking for itself and its four lower-tier townships.
County climate change co-ordinator Korey McKay along with county planning director and deputy CAO Charlsey White visited Algonquin Highlands council during its Feb. 6 meeting. McKay was hired on a contract by the county to compile the plan and a starting point is the setting of reduction targets for the local governments. The upper tier of the county is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from its corporate operations by 15 per cent by 2030.
In terms of overall municipally produced emissions in the county the county government itself is actually by far the smallest emitter responsible for 5.5 per cent of overall municipal emissions. This has to do largely with the fact that landfills are owned and operated by the lower-tier townships and the solid waste in those landfills is responsible for 77.3 per cent of municipal greenhouse gas emissions in the county.
For the Township of Algonquin Highlands its corporate emissions total 2587 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually which is equivalent to 549 passenger cars driven each year or the energy use from 310 homes for one year. Seventy-nine per cent of its emissions come from its landfills 14 from its vehicle fleet and seven from its buildings.
McKay told councillors that ideally targets should be ambitious but not out of reach and explained that 2030 will be the target year.
“This gives us 10 years to implement different projects and initiatives while also being close enough to really get started right away” she said. “And different factors to consider when we’re selecting a target we want it to stress urgency and really recognize the need for us to act on climate change but at the same time we want it to be something we can achieve and won’t set ourselves up for failure.”
McKay said councillors should also consider what municipalities have control over when it comes to meaningful emissions reductions.
“For example we have a lot of control over our buildings and how we can retrofit them to become more low-carbon” she said. “But when it comes to buying a new firetruck or grader for example we’re really limited as to what’s on the market and we may not have control over reducing our emissions here.”
McKay explained the Partners for Climate Protection Program recommends a reduction target of 20 per cent over 10 years as ideal.
“But considering our local context I’m recommending sector-specific targets” she said “mostly since waste accounts for 80 per cent of our emissions if we just set one overall target then our progress will almost be solely dictated by what we do in the waste sector.”
For buildings McKay told council she was suggesting a reduction target of 20 per cent by 2030. For the vehicle fleet her suggested reduction target was 10 per cent a substantial amount of which she said could likely be achieved through mitigating idling of municipal vehicles.
“This may seem like a small action but municipalities have achieved anywhere from one all the way up to 20 per cent reduction in fuel consumption just through anti-idling initiatives” McKay said. “At the county we’ve monitored our different fleet vehicles and seen how long their idling times are and we’ve found that there’s significant potential for the county so there may also be for the townships.”
McKay said the purchasing of hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles when replacing light-duty fleet vehicles is another way emissions could be lowered for vehicle fleets.
For landfills McKay also suggested a 10 per cent reduction target adding the focus in that sector would be education and initiatives surrounding reduction and diversion of waste such as the promotion of backyard composting greater monitoring of bag limits at landfills and facilitating the reuse of items.
As she had at the county council table Mayor Carol Moffatt said it was difficult to pick percentages without knowing what the budget implications of those targets might turn out to be but noted that targets which are meant to be aspirational can be changed as strategies come forward.
“You don’t want to over-achieve your percentages and then find you can’t meet them” Moffatt said “it’s a set-up for failure. But we don’t know. We’re kind of shooting in the dark.”
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she was more comfortable with a 15 per cent reduction target for buildings than 20. “I wouldn’t want to set a target for failure. I’d rather see us set a 15 per cent rather than a 20 per cent and do better than that.”
Councillor Lisa Barry who chairs the township’s environment and stewardship committee said with solid waste she’d like to see a slightly more aggressive target.
Reduction targets were set at 15 per cent for buildings; 10 per cent for vehicle fleet; and 12 per cent for solid waste.
McKay will be visiting each of the county’s lower-tier councils performing the same exercise.