New goal for GHG emissions

greenhouse - lena online
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

Regional government approved last week a more ambitious target reduction level for its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after achieving its initial goals.

The initial plan was adopted in 2011 and aimed to stabilize emissions at 2009 levels through until 2019, a reduction of about 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. Having made reductions of over 20,000 within the first two years, the Region has now created a goal of reducing its corporate emissions by an additional ten per cent below 2009 levels by 2019.

“I think we’ve done quite well,” commented regional chair Ken Seiling. “That’s why we’re increasing our targets.”

The Region has been working with local organization Sustainable Waterloo Region through its Regional Carbon Initiative to reduce its GHG emissions.

“Because they’ve got such a thorough action plan, in just the last two years alone, they’ve been tracking well ahead of that goal to reduce their carbon footprint for corporate operations,” said Mike Morrice, founder of Sustainable Waterloo Region.

This new goal, however, also has to account for projected growth in the Region, including things like the new Light Rail Transit system that will be implemented in the upcoming years.

“The challenge will be to offset that growth that we know is coming with more innovative actions,” said David Roewade, the sustainability planner for Waterloo Region.

Roewade explained that measures taken so far have been substantial, including initiatives such as putting solar panels on regional facilities and installation of heat recovery mechanisms.

While 85-90 per cent of projects that will be required to meet the emissions reductions target are already accounted for in capital plans, the recent progress report presented to regional council acknowledged that an additional $5 to $7.5 million would be required.

Morrice believes the plan is “financially sound,” asserting that increasing the target rate to this level is “exactly the appropriate thing to do.”

According to Seiling, future funding will be accounted for on a case-by-case basis, and could come from government grants, property taxes or water and sewage rates, for example.

But with such an investment, there’s an expected return as well.

“Some of this is trying to lead by example, but there is a good business case for this too. It’s a double-edged sword,” said Seiling.

“It’s not only the impact on the environment, but it also has the potential for generating savings or at least recovering your investment.”

Attacking its corporate emissions isn’t the only environmental item on the Region’s agenda right now, however. It’s currently working on a plan to develop community targets as well.

“So this is now well beyond the Region’s corporate operations, but our entire total community carbon footprint,” explained Morrice.

This initiative is taking place through Climate Change WR, a partnership between the Region, Sustainable Waterloo Region and REEP Green Solutions.

An emissions inventory for the community-wide carbon footprint was undertaken several years ago, finding emissions at about 3.6 million tonnes per year at 2010 levels.

“We’re really excited that this is coming to a conclusion. It’s still a pretty big hurdle getting everybody to approve the action plan and target,” said Roewade.
The draft plan will be presented to cities and regional council in November and December.

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