Selkirk’s Greenhouse Gas emissions are trending downward, and while there’s a footnote that goes along with that, it’s still good news for the city and its residents.
In accordance with Selkirk’s GHG Accountability Bylaw, an ambitions and strategic local action passed last year, the city has reported its emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project, an international organization that tracks emission reduction progress at the city level.
Continuing to strategically replace old equipment with new, low and no carbon options
Selkirk is amongst the smallest communities in the world that is reporting, one of only two communities in Manitoba and the second-smallest Canadian city, beaten out only by Bridgwater, N.S., with a population of just over 8,500 people.
In Selkirk, the city’s GHG tracking showed that corporate emissions declined by 17per cent from 2019 to 2021, down 200 tonnes from 1,232 in 2019 to 1,025 in 2021.
Duane Nicol, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, said that the corporate reductions are not unexpected and are largely the result of intentional changes in city operations.
“In 2019, we brought an innovative new geo-thermal system online in the old side of the water treatment plant and in 2021 our new fossil-fuel free wastewater treatment plant came online. These two facilities were the two biggest point sources for GHG in the city’s inventory. Over those years we also introduced two hybrids, two fully electric vehicles, and one hybrid bus into our fleet replacing internal combustion engine models. We have and continue to strategically replace old equipment with new, low and no carbon versions to bring our emissions down inline with our targets. We are seeing the results of these decisions and there is much more to come,” said Nicol.
The latest numbers show there’s been a significant decline in GHG emissions – both corporate and community-wide – but the fact people stayed at home throughout much of Covid’s two-year grip on the planet played a role in the drop.
“With the 2021 results in hand, progress is being made and the good news is that we’re seeing a downward trend in GHG emissions, but, like many things these days, the global pandemic had an impact on the findings,” said Kayla Dawson, the city’s Manager of Climate Action and Environmental Services.
“Both Community and Corporate emissions have declined since 2019. Community emissions declined eight per cent between 2019 and 2020, then another 11 per cent between 2020 and 2021.”
Corporate net-zero emissions target 2030, community 2050
The total Community emissions in 2021 equated to 122,319 tonnes of eCO 2, down from about 149,196 tonnes in 2019, with corporate emissions coming in at 1,025 tonnes eCO2
Dawson says emissions are looked at in two ways.
“First, we look at the emissions of the whole city coming from all activities; these are known as the Community emissions. Then we narrow down to look at the emissions coming from the City of Selkirk organization itself through its day-to-day operations; these are the corporate emissions.”
The bylaw sets targets to reduce community emissions to net-zero by 2050 and corporate emissions to net-zero by 2030 and zero by 2045.
“The bylaw formalized what the city had already been doing since 2016, when council of the day approved its GHG Reduction Plan that called for a reduction of corporate emissions,” Dawson said.
“The city is now fulfilling its obligation under the Accountability Bylaw to submit annual community-wide emissions data and have done so for 2018, 2019 and 2020 and most recently for 2021.”
Pandemic aftereffects aside, there’s good news in the overall decline.
“The great news is that we’re seeing a downward trend in GHG emissions,” she said.
“The world is returning to the way things were pre-pandemic, and some emissions are expected to return, although likely not all as organizations embrace things like remote working.”
Selkirk’s proactive approach attracting attention
Nicol says ultimately the bylaw is doing three important things right now.
“First, it mandates the tracking and reporting of Selkirk’s corporate and community GHG emissions using internationally recognized standards. Second, it sets new GHG reduction targets that are consistent with the global effort to keep the climate increase to just 1.5 degrees or less. Finally, it establishes a financial framework which clearly and transparently ensures we can actually meet the targets we’ve set,” Nicol said.
Selkirk’s proactive approach to climate action has attracted attention from other orders of government, agencies working to reduce emissions and adapt to the coming climate, and private industry.
“Our approach has been to make improvements to our operations methodically and practically. We’ve demonstrated that we can reduce operating costs while reducing GHGs. We have established ourselves as a community that is willing to take the necessary steps and that has helped us attract grant dollars for our projects. We’re also finding that this is a marketplace differentiator. We can say to potential businesses and new residents, that just by locating in Selkirk, you reduce your carbon footprint. The results we’ve achieved demonstrate we’re on the right track. There’s more to do, but we’re definitely on the right track.”
Nicol said Selkirk’s community strategic plan makes environmental stewardship a priority and calls on the city to protect its natural features and resources, improve city practices and services, and to help citizens make good environmental choices.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. There is no more time to dither and waste. Either we build a low-carbon, resilient community that is thriving in the new green economy, or we will see a city decimated by catastrophic weather events, failing infrastructure, and citizen and business migration to other communities who did make the strategic decisions necessary. By addressing climate change as we have, and will continue to do, we’re attracting investments today while ensuring there will be a vibrant and thriving Selkirk one hundred years from now.”