Algonquin Highlands proceeds with climate change plan
By Vanessa Balintec
The county’s director of public works Craig Douglas and director of planning and deputy chief administrative officer Charlsey White laid out the steps for a county-wide climate change plan to Algonquin Highlands council at their meeting on May 16.
Douglas and White requested the township support the County of Haliburton Climate Change Plan and participate in their mitigation and adaptation plan. Along with council’s support, they requested the township provide staff to assist in data gathering and collaboration in creating consistent climate change programs across the county.
The climate change plan will outline environmental sustainability priorities, establish county-wide and municipal-wide greenhouse gas emissions, and examine other services such as waste management and fleet. The whole plan is projected to take place for the next 10 years, with a five-year point revision period.
“The climate is changing, it is coming,” said Douglas. “We need to predict what is going to change and adapt now.”
The plan is based on mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to reducing and preventing emissions of GHGs, which can take form in new technology, renewable energies, adaptation of older equipment to become more energy efficient, and changing management practices and consumer behaviour.
Adaptation refers to the ability for society and the environment’s natural systems to adjust to changing conditions. In the climate change plan, this takes form in anticipating and preventing the damage that climate change can cause. Douglas and White noted that investing and planning for the future, in ways such as flood protection, infrastructure upgrades and disaster management, saves money and lives down the road.
The plan is comprised of three stages: The Municipal Mitigation Plan, The Municipal Adaptation Plan, and the Community Mitigation and Adaptation Plan.
According to White, if all municipalities sign onto the climate change plan, first steps will be taken to register with Partners for Climate Protection and to organize a meeting in June to head straight into data collection. “Come in the fall, we’re looking at the county to hire a climate change co-ordinator,” said White. “They’ll be the one pulling the data together, creating standards, and drafting policy.”
While the community participation stage is not completely fleshed out, White says there will be options for the public to get involved.
“We thought municipalities should be in order before we go out and start preaching to what people should be doing,” said White. “The third phase is entirely community-based, and it’s going to be just what Haliburton County as a whole, what it’s community climate change action is going to look like.”
Some members of the township expressed skepticism at the county’s ability to follow through with the plan.
“The county did ask their members to go back to their individual municipalities and urge them in the strongest words to participate and take part,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen. “I’m wondering if the county has the power to make it a shall, and not a may. Because it’s not going to work if everyone’s not on board.”
Mayor Carol Moffatt agreed. “There are too many things at risk for not making these changes and these decisions,” said Moffatt. “Changing direction costs money. Certainly that’s been the discussion at the county table, everybody’s in.”
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux expressed her support for the plan. “We’ve got to remember there will be an outlay of funding at the beginning, there’s no question this will have resource implications for all of us,” said Dailloux. “But the savings by mitigating and adapting, the savings later on should be measurable and significant, and I just hope that as a series of municipalities that we can really remember that as we go through and bite the bullet and put in the hard work and get the people we need because it’s worth it.”
The council agreed to all requests to support, participate in, and provide sta ff for the climate change plan.