By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The Town of Cobourg is a leader among Northumberland municipalities in lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, Northumberland County environmental officer Judy Smith told Cobourg council Tuesday.
Smith said they had begun setting targets in 2007, when the the town’s manufacturing sector was the biggest contributor to GHG emissions – 34%of the total. Today it is the smallest contributor at just under 15%. She attributed this to two reasons – losing some major high-energy manufacturing companies (most notably the Kraft plant closure in 2008) and increased efficiencies in those remaining.
During that time, she added, GHG emissions across the province have dropped significantly, now that the production of electricity no longer involves coal.
While the Kyoto Accords set a target of cutting emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, Cobourg set a goal of 11.8%. Initiatives to achieve this included installing a solar-thermal heating system for natural gas at the Centennial Pool, retrofitting street lights to include induction lighting, and purchasing smaller service and hybrid vehicles for staff travel.
“The next target is kind of far off in the future, but the kinds of changes we have to make to go from where we are now to dropping to an 80-100% reduction where we have no fossil fuels – which is what the Prime Minister said in the Throne Speech was the new target he was proposing – the things we are going to have to do, we should start now,” Smith urged.
“It is a race against time.
“One of the reasons it’s so important is, we are already implementing the carbon future our children will inherit. It’s no longer a choice. It’s implicit in everything we do.
“The real choice is whether we exercise that power and influence now, while we still can,” she insisted.
“We only have 10 years, according to the international community of scientists.”
She applauded council’s 2019 declaration of a climate emergency, and suggested any measures taken focus on the most critical factors. For now, she said, the biggest contributors to GHG emissions in Cobourg are vehicles (32%) and homes (29%), with commercial and institutional heating coming in third.
Measures must be affordable, with low-income residents in mind, aiming to deliver the most gain with the least cost.
The town should be decarbonizing its vehicles (including heavy trucks and ploughs) to move to electric power and biofuels.
In housing, she applauds the move to whole-neighbourhood approaches as opposed to individual retrofits.
She also urged an attack on energy poverty – involving landlords and condo boards in retrofits, for example, and making used electric vehicles accessible to low-income residents.
Asked by Councillor Emily Chorley what she would recommend as the best major initiative to focus on, and Smith commended the town’s Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan and asked council to remember those who will have the most difficulty affording retrofits.
Municipal clerk Brent Larmer said that Smith would be returning to council with further information later in October.