/MH council asks for accelerated climate action

MH council asks for accelerated climate action

By Sue Tiffin

At a Nov. 11 meeting of Minden Hills council, Korey McKay presented to Minden Hills council an update on the development of the community climate action plan.

McKay, Haliburton County’s climate change co-ordinator, has been presenting details of a report, titled Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Local Climate Projections, to councils within the county which calls on the community to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions toward building climate resilience. 

As previously reported, the report notes that in 2019, the community within Haliburton County 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 spent more than $161 million on energy, equating to $4,085 per person annually. The main sources of emissions in the community were found to be on road
transportation; residential buildings; industrial, commercial and institutional buildings and off-road transportation.  

Without developing a plan and setting targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is projected to impact the area in the coming years with higher average temperatures, more extreme heat waves and more extreme weather events as well as an increased variability of water levels.

The first step, said McKay, is to develop an advisory group with key stakeholders that can then make recommendations on how the county can reduce emissions. 

Councillor Pam Sayne said she appreciated McKay’s position and initiative on the issue, but wanted to voice concerns on “the slowness of our uptake in this area.”

She said that it felt as though they were reinventing the wheel as opposed to building on initiatives that had already been started. The Minden Hills climate action committee hasn’t been able to meet during the pandemic, Sayne said. 

A screenshot from the Nov. 11 Minden Hills council meeting.

“It’s very important that work continues,” she said. “I don’t want to see this initiative at the county take away any of the work that’s been started locally. We need to keep going with that.” 

One of the policies on lighting that came forward from the climate action committee, said Sayne, needs to be on the agenda and “out there sooner rather than later.” She said it has been postponed for years and is very frustrating for the community. 

While it’s “fine to get the committees going” and have public consultation, Sayne said she would like to see council “move on some of the things we know we have to do.” 

“Committees don’t fix the problem,” she said. “Action fixes the problem.”

Sayne said she didn’t want what was happening at the county to take away from the responsibility of local municipalities working on the issues. 

Councillor Jean Neville asked about landfills, noting she was a “firm believer” in some sort of composter at the landfill to keep bears out. 

“Well, the bears are there because of the food that’s in the landfill. If we got rid of the food that’s in the landfill, we’d get rid of the varmints that are there, so there wouldn’t be a bear problem, there wouldn’t be a seagull problem. But we need that mitigated so it’s really important to be working with our environmental management that govern the landfills to get them on board and thinking smartly and not just putting a bandaid on a problem instead of solving the problem.” 

Trish McKibbin, CAO and clerk, said composters are being looked at across the county as part of a service delivery review.

Councillor Bob Carter agreed with Sayne that action was critical. 

“The idea of the timing here, we have to take action sooner than this,” he said. He noted that in McKay’s analysis, final plans to council would be presented in the spring of 2023, but that would then mean councils would have to wait until the budget of 2024 to, for example, replace municipal vehicles with an electric fleet and then source those vehicles.

“I would like to see this get much higher priority and have these timelines tightened up to much lower levels,” he said. “This should all be done within a year. We know what’s going on, we just have to sit down and decide we want to do it.” 

Mayor Brent Devolin said there was “definitely an appetite” from Minden Hills council to accelerate the timeline.

“We are taking action now, I have been working with staff to examine fleet replacements that are hybrid and electric, and that aligns with our corporate strategy to reduce emissions,” said McKay. She noted that most municipalities say plan management takes up to two years.

“This is largely to build support and buy-in,” said McKay. “It’s about education, buy-in and support, and that doesn’t mean we will hold off action until the plan is in place.”

Two dual port charging stations for electric vehicles are to be installed at the Minden Hills township building over the next few weeks.  

The 22-page Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Local Climate Projections report is available online via the township’s civicweb portal at mindenhills.civicweb.net.