Citing significant flooding in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019, as well as a major winter storm in April 2018, “the County of Haliburton is experiencing the impacts of climate change,” Korey McKay told County council May 24.

McKay, the County’s climate change coordinator, unveiled her draft community climate action plan at last week’s meeting, encouraging an advisory group to be reestablished to help in its implementation.

Leading into her report, McKay said the climate impacts include more extreme precipitation events with longer dry spells in between and more extreme heat and intense storms.

She added future climate projections indicate these will become more frequent and intense over the coming decades. She added it’s damaging infrastructure in the County and public health. “Municipalities are on the front lines of responding, including the financial impacts. Municipalities also influence about half of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

McKay said Haliburton County emits approximately 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. This is largely a result of driving and heating and powering our homes and buildings.

“Adapting to more variable and extreme weather, protecting our natural assets, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will improve community health and wellbeing, generate local job opportunities, decrease local energy costs and avoid long-term costs from damage from climate impacts down the road,” she said.

McKay began her work at the County in 2019, with a three-phased climate change planning process. Phase one was corporate mitigation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, vehicles, landfills, sewer and water, and streetlights. The County and the four townships measured their emissions and set targets.

Phase two was corporate adaptation, to reduce the impacts of climate change. They looked at vulnerability and risk assessments.

This third stage involves “creating a longterm strategic roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build climate resilience to more extreme and variable weather and protect our natural assets across the County,” McKay said.

McKay said the latest plan has six strategies to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. They include:

• Shift from personal vehicles. Implement a public transportation system. County council has investigated public transit over the last number of years but been unable to deliver. Increased opportunities for ride sharing and carpooling. Active transportation, which requires more housing in the villages so people can get around easier on bicycles, for example.

• Switch to zero emission vehicles. Getting people to stop idling; educating on zero emission vehicles; and getting more electric vehicle charging stations.

• Retrofitting homes, cottages and other buildings. Promoting existing funding options; looking at a voluntary local home energy efficiency program; support a local Energiesprong approach (supporting markets for energy transition, pushing forward the development of energy positive materials); bulk purchasing; and advocating for a decarbonized electricity grid.

• Encouraging low carbon, new development, such as through a voluntary green development standard; reviewing building permit fees and requirements with a sustainability lens; and advocating for a stronger Ontario Building Code.

• The acceleration of local production of low carbon energy, such as through a local energy cooperative; and providing renewable and low carbon energy sources.

• Protecting the County’s natural assets, for example, a lake stewardship program at the property level; support of initiatives for food security; and protecting wildlife corridors and education.

McKay said her report emanated from talking to the community climate action plan advisory group, surveys, and meeting with external organizations.

“Staff are proposing to council that the (group) is reformed as an implementation group, as a mechanism for ongoing collaboration across the community,” McKay said.

“This plan aims to reduce our local greenhouse gas emissions from the broader community and better prepare for, and adapt to, a changing climate. The success of this plan will require action from residents, visitors, and local businesses and organizations, in addition to municipal, provincial and federal governments.”

See the full plan on the Haliburton of County agenda for May 24, 2023.