WELLINGTON COUNTY – The initial estimate is in for the cost of the first five years of the county’s “Future Focused” climate change mitigation plan.
Working toward a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the plan aims to reduce carbon emissions by six per cent from 2017 levels come 2030 by trimming off an equivalent of 81,960 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
County councillors signed off on Future Focused back in February, asking for a cost estimate to be presented for the first five-year leg of the plan, covering 2022 to 26.
Climate change and sustainability manager Karen Chisholme presented a report to the county’s planning committee on Sept. 9 proposing a $14.2-million price tag to execute the plan, recommending the forecasted financials be brought into the county’s 2022 budget and forward-looking 10-year plan.
Chisholme’s report estimates 64% of the cost can be recouped through grants, subsidies and other revenue, leaving a forecasted cost of $4.8 million for the first five years of going green.
Costing of programs will be a part of departmental budgets discussed in the coming months as none of the costs have yet been approved.
The county hopes to tackle climate change impacts by focusing on retrofits to residential buildings, transitioning to electric vehicles, and encouraging agriculture/solid waste programming, pouring millions of dollars into capital expenditures in the process.
The biggest climate offenders, according to the Future Focused plan, were found to be residential homes, gasoline-powered vehicles and agriculture, accounting for 76,800 tonnes of the carbon emissions the county’s plan hopes to bury.
Yet-to-be-developed programs for homeowners will focus on offering support and financing to help encourage energy efficient retrofits. Similar programming would apply to non-residential buildings.
New “green building standards” are to be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new development with a review of standards every five years.
“This work will require engagement with various stakeholders to ensure the standards are realistic and incentives, if desirable, are appropriate to the needs of the local industry and regulators,” Chisholmes’ report states.
The burden of implementing new standards would fall onto county planning staff and municipal building officials.
In county-owned buildings, efforts would be focused on social housing upgrades to address energy deficiencies.
“In order to make significant gains in energy efficiency, building audits must be completed. It is expected that actions in addition to those noted in this five-year cost estimate will be identified through this process,” the report states.
The county wants to transition its fleet of vehicles away from gasoline-run to electric vehicles (EV). Half-tonne pickup trucks will go electric first and “once alternatives to diesel are available,” larger county fleet vehicles would ride the electric wave.
The county also wants to bring community attention to EV chargers.
“This will require outreach and education to increase the visibility of EVs and break down barriers to adoption,” the report states.
The county has already teamed up with neighbouring municipalities to develop an EV charger network at common destinations like restaurants and shopping centres and is exploring a partnership with Dufferin County to develop an EV adoption campaign.
“This approach will leverage individual municipal efforts, create a connected region and increase the availability and visibility of EVs for local residents,” states the report.
Initiatives to mitigate agricultural impact on climate will focus largely on partnering with Our Food Future and enhancing or furthering measures already in place through the Green Legacy and rural water programs. The county is largely looking to the feds to guide on-farm climate change action through top-down legislation.
The county’s Solid Waste Services Strategy largely addresses solid waste impact, according to Chisholme’s report.
New staff, next steps
There’s also a plan for two new contract positions for administrative staff who will focus on data management, community engagement and focus on Our Food Future.
Community Energy Initiative loan financing and EV infrastructure for the county’s EVs rocket 2023 expenditures to $11.8 million before other revenue is factored in to control the cost.
The planning committee accepted the recommendation to have the cost estimate and plan included in the county’s 2022 budget and 10-year plan.