County plans to reduce emissions 15% by 2030

By Chad Ingram

Haliburton County councillors accepted a corporate climate change mitigation plan for the county during their online Aug. 12 committee-of-the-whole meeting. 

The county hired climate change co-ordinator Korey McKay last fall, McKay working on the plan since. That process began by taking an inventory of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the county and its lower-tier municipalities. The first phase of the project is the creation of a 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.

Using 2018 emission levels as a baseline, the target at the county level is to reduce emissions by 15 per cent by 2030. 

“So, some high level points about the plan, it focuses on our corporate greenhouse gas emissions, which we have direct control over,” McKay told councillors. “It presents us with potential opportunities and actions to reduce our corporate carbon footprint and achieve, or ideally exceed, the emissions reduction target.” 

McKay said the plan also incorporates best practices that have proven effective in other municipalities. 

“The plan centres around three main goals,” McKay said. “The first goal, for our buildings, to improve our energy efficiency and transition to low-carbon and renewal sources of energy in our municipal facilities. The second goal, looking at our municipal fleet, reducing our fuel consumption and transitioning to low-carbon vehicles and fuels.” 

For the county, 82 per cent of its emissions come from its vehicle fleet, the remaining 18 per cent from its buildings. 

“And lastly, integrating climate change considerations across our municipal programs, policies and plans,” McKay said.

For buildings, McKay said some actions could include undertaking an energy audit and based on the results of that audit, recreate a schedule for replacement of various items with low-carbon and energy efficient options. Another could be the creation of a green new building policy. “So should the county expand in the future and need to build something new, having a policy in place that we are building new buildings to a higher standard, beyond the building code, to ensure that these are low-carbon and do not cause a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

For the vehicle fleet, some suggestions include the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, which could be used both for the county’s fleet and by members of the public on a scheduled basis, as well an anti-idling policy and purchasing policy prioritizing lowest-carbon options.

Regarding municipal policies, McKay is working with county planner Charlsey White on integrating climate change mitigation language into the county’s official plan, for example. 

Including a climate change perspective in staff reports to council is another example. 

McKay has also created plans of each of the lower-tier municipalities which she will present to their councils, and a continuing cross-county dialogue will include the creation of a working group populated largely by municipal staffers. 

In the future, McKay will also be creating a community climate change mitigation plan that will focus on the public and the community at large, and the working group for that plan will include members of the public. 

“We have a lot to think about here, about how we’ll go forward,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and Haliburton County Warden Liz Danielsen. 

“A wonderful report, exciting times,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. “I look forward to the years to come that we move forward on this.”

Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt wondered how sharing of electric vehicle charging stations would work given that most of the county’s vehicles are stored in public works yards. 

“Looking at hybrid and electric, this is likely for our more light-duty fleet, especially at the beginning,” McKay said. “So things like our county administration van, the trucks some of our engineers drive going to an SUV hybrid, as well as building department SUVs.” 

“The nice co-ordination option here is the location of the county building and one of our township buildings [Minden Hills] where we also share a parking lot,” said White. “So if both municipalities move forward with this initiative there could be some collaboration there, whereby we could share that facility as well.” 

Moffatt also reiterated there are many members of the public who are keen to get involved in the process as the county progresses into a community plan.