/Haliburton County must reduce emissions, report warns

Haliburton County must reduce emissions, report warns

By Stephen Petrick

Warmer summers, milder winters, longer heat waves and increased risk for vulnerable populations, such as seniors, the poor and people without good housing.

That’s what Haliburton County officials expect for the area over a span of decades as climate change continues to impact the planet.

Those warnings were laid out in a report that was released recently, as part of the county’s Community Climate Action Plan. The report, titled Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Local Climate Projections, was released to Haliburton County council and its partnering municipalities last month. It calls on the community to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “build climate resilience.”

It included a wealth of statistics about the carbon footprint Haliburton County leaves.

It said that in 2019, the community emitted 299,522 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. (For context, 1 tonne of carbon dioxide is equal to 4,000 kilometres driven by a passenger vehicle.)

County residents also spent more than $161 million on energy. That equates to $4,085 per person annually.

One goal of the committee overseeing the plan is to help residents become less dependent on non-environmentally friendly energy consumption, for the sake of both the environment and their own finances.

“Ensuring that energy is affordable should be a central focus of the community climate action plan,” the report says. “Addressing emissions from home heating should first involve reducing heating demand through building envelope improvements, followed by decarbonizing sources of heating. Technologies are available for efficiently and affordably heating and cooling homes and businesses with a low carbon footprint (such as biomass district energy and heat pumps). Introducing natural gas infrastructure in the community would lock-in (greenhouse gas emissions) for decades to come.”

Keeping emissions low in Haliburton County is also difficult because it’s a rural community, with lots of roads for driving, the report notes.

“Transportation emissions account for 70 per cent of community (greenhouse gas) emissions. As a geographically large and rural community (4.4 people per square kilometer), private vehicles are the dominant mode of transportation in the county. In total, it is estimated that $92,622,860 was spent on fuel for on-road transportation in 2019,” the report states.

The report also gives detailed statistics on how climate change is projected to impact the area in the coming years. The data is based on projections by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Prairie Climate Centre and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

It states that “generally, the weather in Haliburton County is expected to get warmer, wetter and wilder.”

“As the global average temperature increases, the County of Haliburton will see higher average temperatures and more extreme heat waves. The average annual temperature could increase by over 4C toward the end of the century,” the report states.

It also says, the county will likely see “more variable weather conditions and extreme weather events due to increased energy in the atmosphere from increased temperatures. This results in an increase in storms, including ice storms, snow storms and thunderstorms.”

On the topic of water, the report says “water levels in our lakes and rivers will experience increased variability and extremes. Warmer weather increases evaporation and reduced ice cover extends the amount of time in the year that evaporation occurs. More extreme precipitation events and rapid snowmelt will increase water levels and lead to more frequent flooding. Droughts may occur with longer dry spells in between extreme rain events.”

The report was presented by Korey McKay, Haliburton County’s climate change co-ordinator.

While presenting the report to the Algonquin Highlands council on Nov. 4 she said an important next step is for the county to develop an advisory group that could include local municipal leaders, public health experts, business leaders and educators. That group would then make recommendations on how the county can reduce emissions.

The work of McKay and the Community Climate Action Plan got a glaring endorsement from Councillor Jennifer Dailloux, who praised the report for giving council “a strong sense of areas of the county that we can really dive into and areas where we don’t have to worry so much.”

She said she hopes the report will allow some thinking on how this new information can be used to think about how climate change reduction strategies can “marry up” with economic development, to create positive projects for the area.