Report highlights Kingston’s greenhouse gas emissions, local climate initiatives

Traffic backed up on the Waaban Crossing in late November 2023. According to a report to Kingston City Council ahead of their Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 meeting, the use of gasoline is one of biggest contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Kingston. Photo by Logan Cadue/Kingstonist.

In 2022, the City of Kingston’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory increased by 4.0 per cent from 2021, according to an information report prepared by Paige Agnew, the City’s Commissioner of Growth and Development Services. Agnew’s report will be presented to Kingston City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to update councillors on the City’s current GHG inventory and provide an overview of existing community-focused climate initiatives.

In December 2021, Council approved the City of Kingston’s Climate Leadership Plan, which included a target to reduce 2018 corporate GHG emissions by 15 per cent by 2022. With corporate emissions representing less than 2.0 per cent of Kingston’s overall community emissions, the City is focusing on collaboration between residents, businesses, and industries to attain total carbon neutrality across the community by 2040.

While 2022 community emissions increased by 42,033 tonnes of C02e (carbon dioxide equivalent) over 2021, since the 2018 base year, emissions have fallen by 3.6 per cent across the city.

With most pandemic-era restrictions having been lifted by early 2022, Kingstonians returned to the roads in greater numbers than the previous year. The transportation sector thus represents the largest increase in emissions from 2021: a rise of 6.6 per cent. 

Once again, natural gas and gasoline were the most significant sources of community GHG emissions across the entire city. Combined, the two represent 90 per cent of all emissions in the energy sector, with natural gas at 48.6 per cent and gasoline at 41.1 per cent. Emissions from natural gas also increased by nearly 5.0 per cent in 2022, which the report attributed to an 8.0 per cent increase in the number of Heating Degree Days (HDD) or days where the temperature is below 18 C, requiring home heating. 

Meanwhile, electricity emissions in the city decreased by 4.0 per cent over 2021, while the number of Cooling Degree Days (CDD), or days with a temperature higher than 18 C, fell by 18 per cent. As for why electricity usage failed to decrease as significantly as CDDs fell, the report explains the data may suggest more residents are beginning to transition to “electricity-based heating and cooling solutions.” Agnew notes, “Confirming this as a definitive trend will require observing changes over the forthcoming years.” 

With home heating representing 48 per cent of the city’s energy emissions in 2022, the report explains programs that assist homeowners with transitioning to energy-efficient technology will be key in helping the City of Kingston reach its climate targets. 

In April 2022, the City launched the Better Homes Kingston program, which provides local improvement charge (LIC) financing and incentives to help homeowners undertake “deep-energy retrofits.” To date, 117 projects have been completed as a result of the program, representing an average carbon reduction of 63 per cent per home, more than double the program’s initial goal. It should be noted that, in November 2022, the program was “paused” due to “overwhelming demand.”

While a transition away from natural gas will be key to helping the City reach its emission reduction targets, the report notes renewable energies remain “unfeasible” for the broader community.

“Presently, natural gas is vital for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes,” Agnew writes. “Transitioning to alternative energy sources like renewable natural gas, solar, wind, and geothermal… [also] require[s] significant provincial policy and infrastructure changes as there are long-term challenges with electrical energy supply.” 

Community-focused climate initiatives 

Not only does Agnew’s report contain an overview of the city’s GHG emissions inventory for 2022; it also includes progress updates for several community-focused climate initiatives, such as the Neighbourhood Climate Action Champions (NCAC) program. In the program’s first year, NCACs supported a wide range of ideas, including the creation of a community food garden, as well as an information campaign to “raise awareness of ways to enhance residential energy efficiency.” 

The report notes the application period for the second year of the program ended in mid-November. The next slate of neighbourhood leaders will be trained on “climate science and evidence-based community engagement tools, to then engage with residents on local environmental issues and inspire climate action,” staff add. 

Meanwhile, staff are currently preparing a “development initiative” as part of the City’s new Green Standard Community Improvement Plan (CIP), which is meant to support the construction of efficient, sustainable, low-impact buildings. According to the report, this initiative will involve the creation of a “user-friendly guide for proponents, covering both program requirements and compliance pathways, while also addressing frequently posed questions.”

The Kingston Community Climate Action Fund (KCCAF), which launched in 2020, supports local charitable organizations and not-for-profits in undertaking community projects aimed at reducing GHG emissions. Once approved, the organizations launch a public fundraiser to solicit donations from the community, with the City of Kingston providing up to $15,000 annually to match community contributions.

This year’s KCCAF campaign launched on December 1, 2023, in support of All Our Relations Land Trust, which is seeking to install a solar-powered rainwater/well irrigation system at a community garden. Staff write, “Through the completion of this solar system installation, the garden will discontinue the use of fossil fuels for irrigation… and will start the transition away from fossil fuel-powered maintenance equipment in the future.” The fundraising campaign for All Our Relations Land Trust is currently underway, with donations accepted until March 31, 2024

To ensure two-way communication between the City and external partners, the Climate Leadership Working Group was established, bringing together more than 20 organizations to create an opportunity for input on the Climate Leadership Plan. According to the report, the working group met several times in 2023, creating four issue tables: Buildings and Energy Production, Adaption and Resilience, Transportation, and Food and Forestry. 

The report will be presented to Kingston City Council, for information only, during its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall, 216 Ontario Street. Full meeting agendas are available on the City of Kingston website. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

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