By Chad Ingram
The County of Haliburton will aim to decease greenhouse gas emissions from its corporate operations by 15 per cent by 2030.
Councillors on the county’s planning and environment advisory committee received a presentation from county climate co-ordinator Korey McKay during a Jan. 8 meeting. McKay was hired in the fall and will be creating a climate change mitigation plan for the county including its four lower-tier municipalities during the next couple of years.
One of her first tasks was to compile data to determine current emission levels. In terms of overall corporate carbon dioxide emissions for the county and its lower tiers the waste sitting in the townships’ landfills constitutes the greatest amount at 77.3 per cent. Municipal vehicle fleets produce 16.1 per cent of emissions municipal buildings 6.4 per cent and water and waste water systems 0.2 per cent. Landfills are the responsibility of the lower tiers and McKay will be visiting the county’s respective lower-tier councils next month looking at local emissions and setting reduction targets with each of the lower-tier councils.
The operations of the upper tier of the county produce fewer emissions than the more widespread operations of the lower tiers at 5.5 per cent of overall municipal emissions. Algonquin Highlands produces 16.5 per cent; Highlands East 21.4 per cent; Minden Hills 27.1 per cent; and Dysart et al 29.5.
In terms of the County of Haliburton’s corporate emissions 82 per cent come from its vehicle fleet and 18 per cent from its buildings. County operations produce 189 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually or the equivalent of 182 passenger vehicles driven each year or the energy use of 103 homes for one year.
“If you were to continue on in a business-as-usual way and not take any specific action on climate change then our emissions are forecasted to rise” McKay said explaining that with the county’s annual population growth of about one per cent it was forecasted its emissions would rise by 13 per cent by 2030.
In setting a reduction target levels from 2019 will be used as a base with the target year of 2030. This McKay told councillors is enough time to implement climate change mitigation strategies “but also close enough that it holds us accountable to getting started right away.”
Reducing emissions can be achieved in a variety of ways from behaviour modification of employees – less idling of roads department vehicles for example – to building retrofits to reduced fuel consumption from the transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles so on and so forth. Establishing exact strategies to achieve targets will follow but last week councillors were asked to first pick a target the county would aspire to achieve.
“We want the target to stress urgency but also be realistic” McKay told councillors. “We know the science is telling us we need to reduce our emissions as much as possible as soon as possible and we want to show leadership as a rural municipality but at the same time we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure.”
McKay presented a range of suggested options targets which she said all skewed toward the aggressive end of the scale under the Partners for Climate Protection program under which the plan is being constructed. The options included a 15 per cent reduction in overall emissions; a 25 per cent reduction for buildings with a 15 per cent reduction for vehicles; and a 20 per cent overall reduction. McKay also said councillors were free to set any target they’d like suggesting that a 10 per cent reduction might fall into the category of a more conservative target.
After some discussion councillors on the committee decided they’d go with a 15 per cent overall reduction as a target.
“I just find this is nice to put on a piece of paper but when the rubber meets the road . . . I don’t think you’re going to be able to achieve [the targets]” said Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy. “We have a growing county here. The roads department reported earlier a 20 per cent increase in snow incidents already this year it means more trucks on the road and more assets being used. Ambulance services are increasing the per-call volumes and now expansion of service and you’re looking for a reduction of almost 40000 litres of fuel . . . that’s a pretty huge initiative to take. I believe Peterborough’s playing around with the solar ambulance . . . should we all be waiting and buying Tesla pickups?”
“I think it’s a really good start for giving us a picture of where we are and where we need to be heading but I can see the same discombobulation” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. “I struggle with how you choose a target when you don’t know the impacts.” Moffatt added there were cost and budget implications and service delivery implications that needed to be considered.
“I’m not understanding how we could make a commitment to a percentage when we don’t actually know if it’s going to cost us five dollars or $5 million” Moffatt said. “ . . . We can push a little harder to make those innovative suggestions come to life but then the fun part will be figuring out how you’re going to pay for them.”
Moffatt also asked if there was flexibility in the target to which McKay said yes emphasizing the targets were meant to be an aspirational starting point.
Planner Charlsey White said that climate mitigation actions would kept in line with what is realistic for the county.
“We’ve talked about what’s realistic and what is this going to look like” White said. “In September when we start the county budget for next year are we going to come and say we need a million dollars? No that’s not what we’re talking about.”
White said it could mean purchasing a hybrid vehicle instead of a traditional gas-powered vehicle realizing that in the context of the county’s topography fully electric vehicles may not be appropriate for many applications.
“Any change is better than doing nothing” White said at one point in the meeting.
Public works director Craig Douglas also noted that the county’s dispersed rural nature means that it won’t be able to achieve the kind of aggressive reduction targets that more condensed urban communities may be able to.