MH sets climate change targets
By Chad Ingram
Minden Hills councillors set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the township under the county's climate change mitigation plan during their Feb. 27 meeting.
Council was visited by county planner and deputy chief administrative officer Charlsey White and climate change co-ordinator Korey McKay. McKay was hired by the county late last year and will be compiling the plan during the next couple of years. The first phase looks strictly at the corporate operations of each of the five local municipal governments – the upper tier of the county and its four, lower-tier municipalities – and how those operations can become more sustainable in terms of generating fewer emissions.
The first step in that process is to have each of those municipal governments set aspirational targets in terms of emissions reductions. For the county as whole, the waste sitting in the townships’ landfills by far constitutes the greatest amount of overall emissions 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. As for the municipal governments, the smallest percentage of emissions is generated by the County of Haliburton, which does not oversee landfill operations, at 5.5 per cent.
For the four lower-tier townships, whose operations include landfills, their share of emissions essentially break down along lines of population. Dysart et al generates 29.5 per cent of emissions; Minden Hills 27.1 per cent; Highlands East 21.4 per cent; and Algonquin Highlands 16.5 per cent.
Emission levels collected from 2018 data will be used as a baseline, and the target year for reductions is 2030. For the Township of Minden Hills, its corporate emissions total 4,253 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, or about the same as 903 vehicles driven annually, or equivalent to the energy use of 509 homes in a year. Approximately 81 per cent of those emissions come from its landfills, 12 per cent from its vehicle fleet, six per cent from township buildings and less than one per cent from its water and wastewater system.
It was McKay’s recommendation that the township aim to reduce its buildings’ emissions by 20 per cent, and emissions from its vehicles and waste facilities by 10 per cent, respectively, by 2030. For buildings, sustainable retrofits can help lower emissions, and McKay’s report noted that for 2018, 28 per cent of the township’s building emissions came from the former arena and community centre. The township is in the process of constructing its new arena, which will be more energy-efficient than the old one. As for vehicle fleets, the adoption of anti-idling policies, as well the purchasing hybrid or electric light-duty vehicles are recommended, and for landfills, educational programming aimed at greater waste diversion, the benefits of composting at home, etc., are expected to help achieve targets.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, there was indication from some members of council that they wanted to set targets that were more aggressive and Councillor Bob Carter questioned where population growth projections in the report had come from. The report included a population growth projection for Minden Hills of 15.8 per cent by 2030, which Carter noted equated to about 1.25 per cent per year. That figure had come from the county’s official plan.
McKay’s report at the Feb. 27 meeting contained three annual population growth projections from the Ministry of Finance, the official plan and Statistics Canada at 1.18 per cent, 1.32 per cent and 1.54 per cent, respectively.
White noted that while population growth and emissions levels are interrelated, they don’t fluctuate in exact lockstep.
Some members of council again indicated they wanted to set reduction targets over and above the recommendations.
“I could give up beets for Lent, and it wouldn’t affect me,” Carter said, indicating he’d like to set more aggressive targets. “If we make it great, if we fail, too bad.”
Councillor Pam Sayne indicated she wasn’t sure the recommended reductions in the vehicle fleet were enough, given newer vehicular technologies, and suggested the township should start moving away from gasoline-powered vehicles where possible.
“The fleet concerns me because we [the township] keep buying new vehicles, even though we’re [as a society] going electric,” Sayne said.
“I think what you’re hearing here is that we’re not interested in setting targets that don’t even break a sweat,” said Mayor Brent Devolin.
There was some consideration of waiting for more information on landfills before setting targets, however, since the targets are meant to be aspirational and are flexible over time, council ultimately adopted the targets that were recommended in McKay’s report, and will review and possibly revise those targets in a year’s time.