Carbon calculator captures boat emissions

In just ten months, the Integrated Community Energy and Climate Action Plans (ICECAP) partnership has made record progress. Despite COVID-19, partners worked together to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions for their own communities and operations. ICECAP members now have the background information needed to set targets to reduce their emissions, completing Milestone 1 of 5.

“It’s incredible that the ICECAP model came together to reach this milestone,” says David Bywater, project manager with the Georgian Bay Biosphere (GBB). “We worked with participating municipalities to help them achieve an incredibly detailed inventory of each sector, so we now have a very clear picture of how the Biosphere region is contributing to climate change. We can finally see where emissions are coming from and we can move forward with each community to set targets to reduce them.”

ICECAP’s current members belong to the “Partners for Climate Protection” program administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, joining over 400 municipalities across Canada. The Town of Parry Sound and the Townships of The Archipelago, Carling, McKellar, and Seguin began in 2020, joining the Township of Georgian Bay. All area municipalities and First Nations in eastern Georgian Bay have been invited to join ICECAP in order to share technical expertise, grants and share costs that are estimated to save individual municipalities between $40,000 and $80,000 each year.

“Calculating GHG emissions for the internal operations of municipalities is relatively easy as the data is available,” says Forrest Pengra, Town of Parry Sound staff and ICECAP co-chair. “Where it becomes more complex is in gathering the many sources of emissions generated in the community from transportation, buildings, waste, and industry. Each of these categories relies on data for gasoline, propane, electricity, natural gas, and other energy sources. We rely on partners to share their data to have confidence in our calculation of emissions. Reports are reviewed by municipal staff and then approved by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives and FCM for accuracy and completeness.”

To assist in part of the calculations, GBB developed the ‘Carbon Calculator’ as an online tool for permanent and seasonal residents, as well as businesses, to see how many tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) they produce. Individuals can compare their results to the average person in Ontario and in Canada. Paper copies are available at participating municipal offices.

Terry Gilbert, Carling Township Councillor, displays the ICECAP certificate showing achievement of Milestone 1 of the ‘Partners for Climate Protection’ program. All participating municipalities received certificates virtually in December 2020. The arena roof in Carling was designed to hold solar panels as an option for future energy management. (Submitted photo)

ICECAP needed a ‘made-in-Georgian Bay-Biosphere’ tool to capture the energy consuming behaviour of residents and businesses. ICECAP members were the first to use the Carbon Calculator and because of this, they are among the first communities in Canada to include emissions from recreational watercraft in their baseline assessment of community-generated GHG emissions.

“Boating is not only a popular recreational activity in our region,” says Bywater, “but is also a vital form of transportation for many residents and businesses. We had to capture these GHG emissions to fully understand how our region contributes to climate change. The results demonstrate just how valuable, and necessary, including this information was. For example, some water-based communities have found that waterborne transportation accounts for more than half of their total GHG emissions.” 

Creating a baseline of emissions allows for comparison against future calculations to see if emissions are rising, falling, or staying the same. A “Business as Usual” forecast projects out the anticipated levels of GHG emissions if nothing was to change, or no actions were taken to reduce them. “Depending on the community, emissions are projected to increase between 4% and 25% by the year 2030 – a rise that will have both environmental and financial costs,” says Daryle Moffatt, ICECAP co-chair and Seguin Councillor.

Milestone 1 has produced a regional emissions profile (summarized here) and shows that among ICECAP’s member municipalities, waterborne transportation is at 34% of GHG emissions, with on-road transportation accounting for 34% (and off-road transportation at 2%). The residential sector of homes and cottages makes up 18% of regional emissions, with 8% from commercial, 1% from industrial, and 3% from waste. A separate inventory was conducted for the GHGs produced by municipal operations, including facilities, fleets, and waste.

Regional profile of greenhouse gas emissions by sector in the Biosphere region of eastern Georgian Bay.

Typically, transportation accounts for a large portion of GHG emissions in Canada, due to lack of public transportation and reliance on gasoline powered vehicles. Milestone 1 for ICECAP’s members show that roughly 68% of emissions come from transportation – higher than other areas due to waterborne transport. Even more efficient engines, like 4-stroke engines that have better mileage rates, do not necessarily pollute less – they still emit GHGs at high levels.

GBB staff will spend this year helping ICECAP members achieve Milestone 2 and planning Milestone 3 – modelling achievable GHG reductions and consulting with councils and community members on Local Climate Action Plans. For example, support for Zero Emission Vehicles is increasing, and more EV charging stations have been installed in the region. Maps of charging stations can be found online at PlugShare and ChargeHub. Municipal facilities are also eligible for retrofits to save energy and adopt new technologies.

The annual average tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced per person are calculated at 11 tonnes for Ontario residents, 16 tonnes for Canadians, and 20 tonnes in the rural Biosphere region. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global net human-caused emissions of CO2 would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

The grassroots group Climate Action Muskoka promotes a “50% by 2030 Community Carbon Challenge” that encourages individuals, businesses, organizations, and schools to take the pledge, complete the Carbon Calculator and develop an action plan to reduce GHG emissions by eight per cent, per year until 2030.

The online Carbon Calculator is still open for anyone to use, and once utility bills are gathered, should take 15 minutes to complete. Providing an email is optional but sends users a report of their results they can use to set household or business goals for reducing emissions. Over 550 people have used the Carbon Calculator so far.