As the City of Kingston returned to “pre-pandemic” operating levels in 2022, the municipality’s corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose by 1.8 per cent over numbers observed in 2021. According to a staff report that was presented to City Council during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, the City of Kingston’s corporate annual GHG emissions in 2022 totalled 22,079 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or 1,252 tonnes more than 2021 levels.
Despite an increase in corporate GHG emissions from 2021 to 2022, the staff report confirmed the City’s numbers for 2022 represent an 8 per cent reduction in emissions from the 2018 base year. However, the municipality fell short of its goal to reduce 2018 emissions by 15 per cent by 2022. It should be noted that corporate emissions represent just 2.0 per cent of the city’s overall community emissions, which increased by 4.0 per cent in 2022.
As for why the City was unable to reach its emissions targets for 2022, the report pointed to “operations and activities within City facilities returning to normal, pre-pandemic levels,” as well as an increase in the number of municipal buildings contributing to corporate emissions. The report also pointed to a “colder winter” in 2022, which saw heating degree days (HDD) — or days where the temperature is below 18 C, requiring home heating — increase by 8 per cent from 2021.
Despite falling short of its overall emissions reduction target, the City of Kingston was able to decrease the amount of energy consumed in municipally owned buildings by 13.8 per cent per square foot. According to staff, “this… reduction suggests that ongoing energy retrofit initiatives are having a significant impact on facility-related emissions.” The report also pointed to the ongoing “electrification” of Kingston Transit’s bus fleet, which it said will help the City meet future reduction targets.
The 2022 Corporate GHG Emissions Inventory, prepared by Greenscale Inc., showed that while emissions fell by nearly 5,000 tonnes in 2020 due to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, levels have been slowly on the rise over the past two years.
As for what is contributing to the City’s GHG emissions, the report noted the municipality’s gasoline-powered vehicles consumed, on average, 20.8 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres (km), compared to just 6.43 litres per 100 km for the municipality’s hybrid vehicles.
The report went on to suggest the City will be able to further reduce corporate GHG levels as the municipality continues to add more electric vehicles to its fleet. “In the coming years, as hybrid and electric pick-up truck and cargo van options become more readily available there will be increased opportunity to reduce fuel use,” added staff.
Other emissions contributors included diesel, gasoline, and natural gas, which represented 66 per cent of all energy consumed but accounted for 88 per cent of 2022 emissions. Meanwhile, electricity represented 11 per cent of energy sector emissions but was responsible for just 38 per cent of energy consumed, “highlighting the lower emissions associated with using electricity for energy compared with fossil fuels,” noted the report.
As for the biggest decreases in 2022, the report explained heating oil use decreased by 69 per cent, in large part due to the “increasing cost of fossil fuels.” The report went on to suggest further GHG reductions will not only support the City’s climate targets but also have “significant financial implications for annual budgets.”
While the staff report was presented as “information only” to City Council during the January 9 meeting, the contents generated significant discussion from councillors and members of the public. Before the report was officially brought forward for debate, councillors received several public delegations, including one from Portsmouth District resident Mary Jane Philp, who questioned how corporate emissions rose in 2022 in light of the City’s climate targets.
Philp remarked the City needs to do more to support public transit and active transportation. “The only way we can all reduce emissions is to drive less. With the right encouragement, people may choose to use a bicycle or walk more, where they used to drive,” she noted.
She also suggested the City should actively encourage others to use Kingston Transit. “To encourage people to get out of their cars and use transit, there are many examples of successful initiatives,” she said, pointing to a program in Ottawa which offers seniors free access to buses on Sundays and Wednesdays. Philp also noted public figures, such as the mayor and councillors, could set an example for other residents by using the service more frequently.
Meanwhile, Kathleen O’Hara called on Council to support more renewable energy projects. “Our city has a choice: we can reduce our emissions by small amounts every year and miss our modest targets, or we can embrace the new economy,” she said, noting an initiative in the Netherlands where energy generated from windmills is used to power electric trains.
Report presented as “information only” to City Council
When the report was finally brought forward for discussion later in the meeting, councillors had a number of questions for City staff about a wide range of potential climate initiatives.
In response to a question from Lakeside Councillor Wendy Stephen about future solar energy projects, Neil Carbone, the City’s Commissioner of Corporate Services, noted the municipality has done an “extensive study” on which of its buildings may be suitable for solar panel installation, but the nature of the facilities, their load, and “roof capacities” place additional restrictions on where the panels can be installed. Carbone added the potential panels would only be able to supply electricity to the facilities they are installed on and would be unable to power additional buildings.
Brad Joyce, Commissioner of Infrastructure, Transportation, and Emergency Services, later added that solar technology is currently being used for lighting in certain public parks, “wherever the electric distribution network doesn’t allow for easy and relatively inexpensive connections.”
Meanwhile, Collins-Bayridge Councillor Lisa Osanic asked whether City-owned buildings have begun to transition to the use of heat pumps, which are often seen as a sustainable way to heat and cool homes and other facilities. In response, Carbone noted that “a number” of City facilities already use heat pumps, but he was unable to provide an exact figure.
With gasoline and diesel fuel consumption contributing to the City’s increase in corporate emissions, Carbone confirmed the City is working to replace aging Kingston Transit infrastructure with electric vehicles. “We are in the process of acquiring additional electric fleet as replacements,” he said, noting the City hopes to add up to 18 new electric buses in the years ahead.
However, Joyce explained that ongoing “supply issues with electric buses” have slowed the City’s “electrification” of the Kingston Transit fleet. He noted, “We have six buses that are on order; they are back-ordered. There is a supply issue with electric buses in Canada, so we’re anticipating [that for] buses, our turnaround time is two years — [but that timeline] keeps expanding.”
With the City of Kingston’s population increasing in recent years, Sydenham Councillor Conny Glenn asked whether the municipality would be closer to its 15 per cent reduction target had it not been for those mitigating factors. In response, Nathan Manion of Greenscale Inc. confirmed the calculations reflect a per capita reduction of 13.5 per cent, “much closer to the 15 per cent [target].”
Glenn noted that as Kingston’s population continues to grow, “we are going to struggle with those absolute numbers, and [we need to] be careful what we’re discussing in terms of measurements.”
As City officials work to expand the local tree canopy, Glenn also asked if the report gave consideration to potential carbon offsets through additional trees. Manion replied that trees are included within the community inventory under the agriculture and forests sector.
In response to a question from Paul Chaves, Councillor for Loyalist-Cataraqui, regarding how the City will meet its targeted 30 per cent corporate GHG reduction by 2030, Manion explained many of the municipality’s efforts are still in their early stages. “In terms of the activities that have started for these emissions reductions, they’ve only started in the last couple of years. A lot of them are delayed, and they’re coming around in the next few years,” he said.
Along with the transition to electric vehicles come challenges related to the province’s electrical grid, as Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Growth and Development Services, remarked: “When we talk about looking at a strategy, it’s not just upgrading the infrastructure and our physical properties, but [whether the grid has] the capacity to provide what’s needed relative to the City’s overall electrification goals.”
Agnew also confirmed staff have been advocating to the provincial government to ensure the grid is in a position that will allow the City of Kingston to achieve its future climate goals. “I think it’s safe to say that, from a provincial perspective, there is some under-planning that’s been done recently. We are trying our best, as a partner at the table, to come up with strategies and solutions,” she said of talks with the province.
As an information report, the document did not contain any recommendations for councillors to vote on. Instead, the contents of the report are expected to inform future decisions by Council regarding the City’s GHG emissions reduction targets, as well as other climate-related goals, some of which will likely be discussed next week when Council meets to debate the 2024 Operating and Capital Budgets.
The agenda from this meeting of Kingston City Council can be found on the City of Kingston’s council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in its entirety on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.