Climate action plan is focus of Central Manitoulin climate change committee

MINDEMOYA – The Climate Change Committee (CCC) for Central Manitoulin hosted its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, May 27. The committee is a sub-committee of the municipality’s property committee and has the sole purpose of overseeing the development of a climate action plan (CAP) with the assistance of Kristin Koetsier, the municipality’s climate change co-ordinator. The plan will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on both a corporate and community level. 

Mindemoya climate change advocate Jan McQuay was elected as committee chair while Cori Davy, a teacher at Central Manitoulin Public School and head of the Eco-School team, accepted the role of vice chair. Other civilian members are Autumn Davy, a student at CMPS and member of CMPS’ Eco-Team, and Katie Gilchrist, a public health nurse with Public Health Sudbury and District (PHSD). Ms. Gilchrist is responsible for PHSD’s climate change portfolio, which deals with the increasing intersection of climate change and public health. 

Council members include Mayor Richard Stephens, Councillor Dale Scott, a retired Island veterinarian, and Mike Wilton, who worked with Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources until his retirement in 1996. 

Ms. Koetsier is a non-voting member of the committee.

Following elections, the committee reviewed the terms of reference. Ms. Koetsier clarified that the committee is specifically tied to her daily work. “The purpose of the committee is the make sure that the plan the municipality is working on is something community members can feel confident in and support, and will actually have a hand in creating themselves,” she said, noting she also sees the committee as a course for change in the community that will ensure the plan is implemented. “We don’t want to just create a wonderful plan and then have it sit on the shelf.”

Ms. McQuay delivered an overview of greenhouse gases before Ms. Koetsier explained her role and the climate action plan. Her position is funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Ontario’s Municipal Energy Program (MEP). “The FCM program is for communities working on either mitigation, which means reducing emissions or sucking emissions back out of the atmosphere, or adaptation, which is preparing to adapt to the effects of climate change that we might not be able to escape,” she explained. “The MEP program is more about energy planning, conservation and thinking about how our community will source energy in the future but those two things obviously tie together very well so we’re just working on this as one plan.”

Ms. Koetsier is also working for Billings Township on a similar project with very similar timelines.

The Central Manitoulin project is looking at greenhouse gas emissions which includes energy usage as well as topics such as waste and, potentially, farming. FCM recommended the municipality work under the Partners in Climate Protection (PCP) program. 

For communities working on mitigation under PCP, there are five milestones to work through, the first of which is an inventory that looks at where all emissions are coming from within municipal boundaries. The draft inventory has been completed and should be available for public viewing once it has been approved by council. 

The second milestone is setting targets for emissions. “We don’t necessarily have to do that right away,” Ms. Koetsier said. “To set a target you have to know what you’re trying to achieve and, maybe vaguely, how you’re trying to get there which kind of ties into the third milestone which is writing an actual plan for how we’re going to reduce those emissions. The fourth milestone is then implementing that plan.”

There is approximately nine months remaining in Ms. Koetsier’s contract. At that time there should be a completed plan with targets and the inventory. Implementation should also have begun by then. 

“The fifth milestone is monitoring so this is something we need to keep in mind throughout the whole project is we need to find a way to track how we’re reducing those emissions from year to year to make sure we’re keeping up with the goals we set out in the plan,” she added.

Some stakeholder engagement has already been completed that includes an open house last December. There will be additional stakeholder engagement to satisfy MEP requirements. At this time, several comments and suggestions have been submitted and will be reviewed by the committee.

Completing the inventory proved challenging at times. “It is very challenging to get data, especially when you’re in a small rural community. We don’t always have the same data sources as larger cities,” said Ms. Koetsier, so many numbers are estimates. Corporate numbers are from municipal records but in the community categories, estimates had to be made in some sections. 

“What you are going to get is a guideline to how much action we think we need to take to reduce our emissions by such and such an amount, so having that first picture is still important to gauging the types of changes we need to make,” she said.

Councillor Scott noted he was happy with the report and the data obtained. 

Meetings will be held monthly but due to the timelines and amount of work to be completed, working groups will likely be struck to meet more frequently.