Diverting organic waste from the landfill could be the single biggest way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the community, Quesnel council heard this week.
As council discussed establishing new GHG reduction targets for the community and the City of Quesnel as a corporation Tuesday, Oct. 1, Kyle Aben, the City’s new Carbon Review Co-ordinator, explained that diverting organics from the landfill and composting the materials could result in more than 7,300 tonnes of CO2e eliminated annually in the community.
In May 2018, the Province of British Columbia established new GHG reduction targets: a 40-per-cent reduction in emissions from 2007 levels by 2030, a 60-per-cent reduction by 2040, and an 80-per-cent reduction by 2050.
The reduction target for the community of Quesnel has previously been set to match the targets proposed by Province, and at the Oct. 1 meeting, council voted unanimously to adopt a GHG emission reduction target for the community that matched the Province’s target, so reducing GHG emissions from 2007 levels by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.
This would equate to a reduction of approximately 36,000 tonnes of C02e, or 3,600 tonnes of additional CO2e each year until 2030, according to Aben.
In his report to council, Aben noted the community emissions in 2007 were 91,508 of CO2s, and these emissions come from resident gasoline and diesel use for transportation (37 per cent), commercial transportation (20 per cent), residential home heating and lighting (20 per cent), commercial buildings (18 per cent) and solid waste (five per cent).
Aben told council a five-per-cent decrease in mobile fuel use would result in 2,592 tonnes of CO2e eliminated annually, while a five-per-cent decrease in natural gas use would result in 1,407 tonnes of CO2e eliminated annually. He says both targets are possible.
Connecting commercial downtown buildings to a biomass district energy system is another way the City could lower community-wide emissions. Connecting 23 buildings would result in 1,835 tonnes of CO2e eliminated annually, and the carbon dioxide from biomass is considered carbon-neutral if the biomass is sourced from sustainable forest management, Aben explained in his report.
On Oct. 1, council also voted unanimously to set a target to reduce the City of Quesnel’s corporate GHG emissions by 3.5 per cent annually for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022, with new targets set in 2022 for future years.
This would equate to a reduction of 43 tonnes of CO2e in 2020, an additional 21 tonnes in 2021 and an additional 40 tonnes in 2020, according to Aben.
The City of Quesnel corporate operations have not had a formalized target for emission reductions in the past.
Current City corporate emissions are 1,239 tonnes CO2e, and the City’s corporate emissions are primarily generated by gasoline and diesel use by the City and its contractors (69 per cent), natural gas use for building heating and hot water (27 per cent) and electricity use for streetlights and water/sewer pumping (four per cent), according to Aben’s report
“Fuel reduction would be one of our main targets,” Aben told council.
Aben says putting telematics in the City’s fleet vehicles would help identify inefficient vehicles and could result in an 11-per-cent fuel savings and more than 109 tonnes of CO2e reduced. Installing two-minute idle shut downs on all fleet vehicles and electrifying the City’s fleets where possible are also ways the City could reduce its emissions, Aben told council.
According to Aben, a five-per-cent savings in mobile fuel use would result in 49 tonnes of Co2e eliminated annually.
A five-per-cent savings in natural gas use would result in 17 tonnes of C02e eliminated annually.
“Both the targets I’ve recommended are achievable, but it would take climate action by the Province, the City and the community,” Aben told council.
As well, council voted to re-establish a carbon reserve fund to support climate action research and education in Quesnel, using the carbon tax rebate received under the Carbon Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP).
During the meeting, council also voted to express its intention to declare a climate emergency once Aben has returned to council with a tight plan with financial information and an agenda for lobbying the provincial and federal governments with ways Quesnel can accelerate reducing GHG emissions with help from the other levels of government.
“My preference would be to do what other communities have not done — to declare an emergency and have a business plan, but also make a very clear statement to the provincial and federal governments where we need help,” said Mayor Bob Simpson.
Coun. Ron Paull opposed the declaration of intent.
“I am a little apprehensive of this one because there are other community issues that we are not declaring an emergency on,” he said. “I want to be cognizant we are not belittling those causes.”