The City of Kingston will wait until 2025 to put in place a plan to reduce 2018 corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions levels by 50 per cent by the year 2030. Currently, the City has committed to reducing 2018 emissions by 30 per cent by 2030; however, City staff have been evaluating options to increase that target by up to 20 per cent, as per the 2023-2026 Strategic Plan.
During the Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 meeting of Kingston City Council, members voted to approve a staff report which recommended councillors wait until 2025 to make a firm decision on increasing the corporate emissions reduction targets. As noted in the report, a number of assessments are currently ongoing within the municipality, including studies into City departments such as facilities, transit, and asset management, which staff said would give them a better understanding of “the most realistic corporate emissions attainable by 2030.”
On Tuesday night, councillors received a number of delegations from community members who urged representatives to move faster on increasing the corporate GHG reduction target.
Aric McBay, climate justice lead at the Providence Centre, said it’s “essential that the City show leadership with science-based reductions targets.”
McBay called on the City to work with members of the community to “create a 50 per cent reduction plan and to put it into effect.” He added, “There are many community members here tonight who are dedicated to mobilizing action on climate, who are collectively knowledgeable on all aspects of energy transition. These people can be your strongest allies on climate and help to generate and implement the solutions we need.”
Nancy Nicol, speaking on behalf of the group Seniors for Climate Action Now, called on councillors to “develop a clear path” to reach a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.
According to a recent report, the City’s corporate emissions dropped by 8.0 per cent from 2018 to 2022, as the municipality fell short of its goals to reduce corporate emissions by 15 per cent by 2022. Nicol described the City’s failure to reach its 2022 targets as “concerning,” and she spoke out against the recommendation to delay a reassessment of the City’s corporate targets until 2025.
Nicol was followed by Maurice Breslow, a resident of Countryside District who noted the many ways climate change is being felt by those in the community.
“Given the consequences that we’re all experiencing, from extreme heat waves and forest fires to recurrent violent storms, and in some places excessive rain… one knows that climate change is upon us and that we’ve had a major hand in causing it,” he said.
Next to speak was Sarah Gordon, a master’s student at Queen’s University, who connected the City’s ongoing climate initiatives to the municipality’s desire to attract more young people to the city.
“This motion to increase the corporate emissions target to a 50 per cent reduction by 2030 is… the next step of Kingston maintaining its progressive climate action standing and continuing to attract members of my generation and future generations to our city,” she said.
Gordon went on to argue that delaying the reduction commitment contradicts the City’s recent declaration of a climate emergency.
“You declared an emergency, so act like it is one,” she said. “Delaying is not the answer. Carbon offsets are not the answer. Business as usual is not the answer. A 50 per cent reduction by 2030 is the answer, and it is urgent that you update this target.”
When it came time for councillors to comment on the report, Portsmouth Councillor Don Amos questioned whether the additional studies noted by staff would give councillors “more steps and concrete analysis.” In response, Brent Fowler, the City’s Director of Corporate Asset Management and Fleet, noted that studies related to public transit will “include a significant amount of detail… regarding implications on energy consumption infrastructure requirements, funding, and also the impact to the operation… due to some of the shortcomings with some of the technology around electric vehicle range,” he said.
Fowler added, “Those studies are very in-depth and will certainly outline a number of the steps related to the fleet piece.”
Meanwhile, Supervisor of Energy and Asset Management Russell Horne noted that a study into municipal facilities is examining over 100 buildings and-will “identify specific measures at each one of these 100 facilities, to replace the equipment that is reaching the end of its life with a low-carbon alternative.”
The City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Lanie Hurdle, also commented, noting that the municipality requires a more “full understanding” of the potential impact an increase to the corporate GHG reduction target could have on the City’s electrical grid capacity.
Also included in the report was a recommendation for Council to direct staff to examine the costs associated with purchasing carbon offsets, compared to investing in “local GHG reduction and renewable energy projects.” The recommendation drew support from Amos, who said, “The proposal to have the internal funds being set up and redirected to stay within the city limits, I’m 100 per cent in favour of.”
Noting the City’s corporate emissions represent just 2.0 per cent of the total GHG emissions in Kingston, Kingscourt-Rideau Councillor Brandon Tozzo asked staff whether the municipality has any “regulatory capacity for sectors such as industrial and commercial.” In response, Julie Salter-Keane, manager of the City’s Climate Leadership Division, noted that while the City is able to assist in reducing community emissions through programs like Better Homes Kingston, “other aspects require provincial authorities.”
Lakeside Councillor Wendy Stephen then weighed in to the discussion, indicating her support for the recommendations in the report while arguing the focus should be on reducing overall community emissions.
“The goal of a 50 per cent GHG reduction for 2030 is what I want deeply,” she said. “But I really think we’re focusing on the wrong thing here. I think we need to broaden our scope beyond the Corporation of the City of Kingston to the entire community that we live in, and the City needs to do its part.”
Stephen added, “It’s really important to be clear that waiting for the studies… [is] OK; they’re coming. Waiting for the studies is not going to deter from what City staff are already working on.”
The report and its recommendations ultimately received unanimous support from councillors. Staff will now work to prepare a report by the second quarter of 2025 (Q2) on the feasibility of increasing the corporate GHG reduction targets by an additional 10 to 20 per cent by 2030.
Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.