Council approves climate leadership plan

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City council has approved the Kingston Climate Leadership Plan and will set loftier targets for emissions reduction in the community.

Council unanimously supported the plan on Tuesday, which sets out ten objectives for decreasing emissions in Kingston, with an ultimate goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2040.

In the meeting, Councillor Kiley-who is a member of Canada's Climate Caucus- says staff have identified a number of ideas through this report that have been put forward by members of that caucus.

"This Leadership plan will inspire others, we're punching above our weight for a city of our size," Kiley said.

In 2014, Kingston's Climate Action Plan called for a 30 to 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Thanks in large part to calls for action by environmental groups like 350 Kingston, the city has set its sights higher and now aims for a 50 percent reduction in the same period.

Gavin Hutchison from 350 Kingston spoke to council on Tuesday, and says the science makes it clear that Kingston's initial goal of 30 percent falls short of actually doing its part.

"Scientists from around the world who study our planet's energy and balance have been crystal clear on how we must cut our greenhouse gas emissions by at least half this decade if we want any chance to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees celsius," Hutchison said to council.

Another delegate from 350 Kingston, Mark Sibley, said Kingston should also decline spending the budgeted $3.6 million for expansion of the natural gas grid, saying it is short sighted as we move further away from natural gas and fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy.

Sibley pointed towards cities like Vancouver and New York City that have declared all new builds must not rely on fossil fuels.

The plan was formed through consultation with local experts and over 990 community members.

Ten primary objectives have been outlined in the city's plan which emphasizes the future use of renewable energy sources, retrofitting businesses and residencies, and looks to support local organizations and businesses to identify and reduce their own climate impact.

The plan also recommends regular review every five years to identify and implement local opportunities to move towards carbon neutrality as technology and community action evolves over the next twenty-five years.

The City identified 22,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions through municipal operations in 2018, and looks to achieve a 15 percent decrease from that level as of 2022 before the eventual goal of carbon neutrality in 2040.

However the plan also acknowledges that Kingston's environmental goals can not be met without community involvement, with municipal operations accounting for only about two percent of Kingston's entire emissions.

As such, the plan looks for ways to promote personal responsibility including trying to move residents away from personal vehicle use and localizing food production.

The report also notes that community emissions already have decreased by six percent between 2011 and 2018 largely due to Ontario's move away from coal generated electricity.

The Plan states that implementing the identified recommendations will see community emissions decrease from 1,290,000 tonnes to 470,000 tonnes by 2040.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News

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