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Where Durham stands on climate change

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

With climate change looming in the minds of many, regional staff recently updated Durham councillors on what is being done locally.

But the update itself caused some more worry than peace of mind.

At the most recent finance and administration committee meeting, Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier noted since the Durham York Energy Centre opened, the region’s greenhouse gas emissions have almost doubled.

“I don’t think anybody – I certainly didn’t – thought there’d be that significant [of a jump],” said Collier. “That’s… just shy of double, and I don’t think that anybody envisioned the impact of that facility, being the best of the best technology and the most efficient in the world, would have that type of impact… doubling our greenhouse gas emissions… it’s surprising to me.”

He wondered if this is what was expected, but director of business services Jenni Demanuele was unable to comment, but noted staff would look into the matter for him.

The most recent analysis of greenhouse gases in Durham took place in 2018, and showed the total emissions for 2016.

The total estimated emissions were approximately 5 million tonnes.

According to Demanuele’s report, 36 per cent of emissions came from transportation, 25 per cent from residential buildings, and 25 per cent came from manufacturing industries and construction.

The rest came from commercial and institutional buildings (nine per cent) and from waste (five per cent).

The amount of greenhouse gases emitted by regional facilities are collected annually, making the numbers more up to date.

Since 2015, when corporate greenhouse gas emissions were at their lowest, emissions have gone up by almost 50,000 tonnes.

The region’s corporate sector contributed 134,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, but that increased to 183,300 tonnes in 2018.

The report given to council notes the region’s corporate sector represents approximately 3.5 per cent of the region’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Collier wondered if mixed waste pre-transfer and the planned anaerobic digester facility might make a difference.

“When [the anaerobic digester] happens, right now we currently use aerobic digestion for composting, which produces a lot of greenhouse gas. Will that close, and will everything go to anaerobic digestion, or will the aerobic facility still remain open for our green bin material?” he asked.

Durham CEO Elaine Baxter-Trahair threw her hat into the conversation when she told Collier the intent is to move organic materials away from the DYEC.

“The intention is everything would go to anaerobic digestion. Whether or not that is phased in over time we would have to see,” she explained.

Collier was pleased, noting there should be a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by moving organic materials away from the DYEC.

Baxter-Trahair explained the point of the report was to outline everything the region is doing to fight climate change with the community and the region’s own assets.

“Prior to now it had been quite siloed, so we wanted to be able to demonstrate that the work that we are undertaking with our own assets that are within our control are also in compliance with the expectations that we’re putting on our community through our various policy documents,” she explained.

Regional staff hope to increase regional efforts in the fight against climate change.

Durham Region has developed a new $5 million climate mitigation and environment reserve fund, with more plans forthcoming.

Staff hopes to implement climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives with benefits to long-term sustainability, and also to improve energy efficiency, innovation and climate resiliency.

There is also a hope the co-ordination and integration of corporate and community climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives, and the effective communication of said initiatives across programs to regional council, and the Durham Region Roundtable on Climate Change will also combat climate change.

Staff will continue to monitor and review potential issues in the region related to potential climate change impacts to infrastructure and service delivery.

The report will now head to regional council.