Report recommends Kingston wait to increase corporate GHG reduction targets

Photo by Kristina Guevremont.

A staff report being presented to Kingston City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, is recommending councillors wait until 2025 before determining whether it is feasible to increase the City’s corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets.

According to the report circulating ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, in 2018, the previous city council made a commitment to reduce its corporate GHG emissions by 30 per cent by the year 2030. After the 2022 municipal elections, the current City Council established its 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, which included a commitment to “evaluate options” to increase the corporate reductions goal by an additional 10 to 20 per cent by the year 2030 — with an overall goal of decreasing 2018 corporate GHG emissions by up to 50 per cent by 2030. 

To support Council in its goal of further reducing corporate emissions, the report notes Greenscale Inc. was retained to “research and report on the challenges, impacts, and available options for pursuing more ambitious GHG reductions.” The Greenscale Inc. report (begins on page 22) – titled “Feasibility Assessment of a Corporate Carbon Budget of 40-50% by 2030” — establishes several key objectives for the City. 

For one, the report explains the City will need to “re-assess the current business-as-planned pathway,” with respect to commitments established under the Climate Leadership Plan. Staff will also need to identify “ any current project or new initiatives” which could be “implemented” and/or “accelerated” faster than the current pathway.

According to staff, the Climate Leadership Plan established a goal of reducing 2018 corporate GHG emissions by 15 per cent by 2022. The report adds, “of the targeted 15 per cent reduction from 2018 levels, the strategy anticipated 3 per cent from municipal building retrofits and 7 per cent from transitioning to electric transit and light-duty fleet vehicles.” 

A recent staff report to Council explained that while the City has demonstrated an ability to reduce corporate emissions from year to year since 2018, as levels dropped by 8.0 per cent from 2021 to 2022, the City of Kingston was unable to meet its target of reducing 2018 emissions by 15 per cent by the year 2022. Staff note, “this shortfall underscores the substantial efforts and challenges that lie ahead to meet the City’s GHG reduction goals.” 

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.

In order to meet “more aggressive 2030 reductions targets,” the report explains the City may also need to consider the “financial implications” of purchasing carbon offsets, “if an accelerated GHG reduction pathway is not successfully carried out over the next seven years.”

“A clearer understanding of carbon pricing’s impact on budgets will better aid in setting realistic targets and fully grasping the financial consequences of not achieving them,” the report explains. 

According to staff, the analysis conducted by Greenscale Inc. considers many of the City’s ongoing climate initiatives, including in-depth assessments of Facilities, Transit, and other Municipal Fleet categories, “that are likely to provide valuable cost estimates and other information that will help to evaluate the potential to achieve more aggressive reduction strategies.” 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councillors will receive the report from staff — including the Greenscale Inc. study — which includes a number of recommendations. With ongoing studies into various City departments, such as Facilities, Transit, and Asset Management expected to be completed later this year, staff are recommending councillors wait until 2025 before establishing any new corporate emissions reduction targets. 

The report notes these assessments will give staff a better understanding of “the most realistic corporate emissions attainable by 2030.” If approved, staff will be expected to prepare a report to Council by the second quarter (Q2) of 2025 on the “feasibility of increasing the carbon budget to 40-50 per cent by 2030.” 

The report coming to Council on Tuesday also recommends the City begin to implement the practice of using federal carbon pricing “across all sectors,” which staff explain should allow the municipality to “budget accordingly in the future to be accountable for self-imposed GHG… reduction targets.”

The report also calls on staff to examine costs associated with purchasing carbon offsets to help the City meet its GHG reduction targets, compared to investing in “local GHG reduction and renewable energy projects.”

Lastly, in order to maintain “consistency” in planning future climate initiatives, the report also recommends staff use the 2018 baseline year for all new mid- and long-term targets. Currently, the City uses two sets of targets — one established in 2011 and another from 2018 — which, according to staff, “can sometimes create confusion in documents about which baseline targets are referring to.” 

The staff report will be presented to Council during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers. 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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