Climate change co-ordinator plans to lead the way
By Sue Tiffin
Korey McKay is in the unique position of working in a job that didn’t exist two years ago when she enrolled in a master’s program that would eventually enable her to work in the role.
McKay joined the county last fall as climate change co-ordinator after graduating from the Master of Climate Change program at the University of Waterloo. The position was developed last year to “support the County of Haliburton’s initiative on Climate Change (mitigation and adaption),” with McKay’s role to “direct, co-ordinate, plan, implement and monitor the County of Haliburton climate change plan,” according to the job posting.
Originally from Bowmanville, McKay first enrolled at the University of Waterloo to study in the science and business degree program. She gained experience in governance working federally in environmental compliance, and provincially with the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, as well as for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Peterborough before starting grad school in 2018.
McKay wanted to work at the community level, which she said generally means working for a municipality or non-profit.
“Coming out of my master’s, I wanted to work at the community level, because you see a lack of action at the global and national level and it can get kind of disheartening,” she said, noting that many hopeful stories come out of community-level action. “We not only control a lot of the greenhouse gas emissions and respond to the impacts at a local level, but also what you do at a local level can almost be treated as a case study that can be replicated elsewhere, so it’s sort of a more bottom-up approach to climate change.”
The county’s climate change plan has three main phases, corporate mitigation, corporate adaptation, and community mitigation and adaptation.
“Corporate refers to our municipal operations and services, and community refers to the county as a whole,” she told the Times. “Mitigation involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions – the causes of climate change – and adaptation involves reducing the negative impacts of climate change – the effects of climate change.”
Following the Partners for Climate Protection program, in which municipalities become a member, McKay will work through a five milestone process.
“The first step was doing our greenhouse gas inventory for our corporate operations, the next phase is setting targets to reduce our emissions, and the next phase is to write the actual plan and implementing and monitoring it as time goes on,” she said. McKay presented on a corporate climate change target last week to county council, and is writing a plan to adopt targets specific for each of the lower-tier municipalities, which she will present at council meetings as soon as February.
“It’s a mix of being sort of an aspirational target, but also looking at our inventory and thinking, OK, what do we have the power to change, and especially within the next 10 years. So making some calculations on, if we change this truck to a hybrid, where does that leave us, what percent reduction. The process is always tricky because we have a growing population and we’re not going to eliminate any services so it’s more so looking at how we can make efficiencies and reduce our emissions.”
McKay said she understands the community has an interest in climate change, which she called a “strong positive.” Phase 3 of the plan involves consultation with the community.
McKay herself has made lifestyle changes to do more in her personal life toward environmental sustainability, including adopting a vegetarian lifestyle and bringing her own reusable bags and cutlery.
“I think what individuals can do gets a lot of attention, and I think going forward, corporations and government should get more pressure,” she said. “I do think individuals have a large role to play, whether that be eating less meat, flying less, reducing their car travel, but you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. For example, living in Haliburton [County], you kind of have to drive around, and not all of us can afford an electric vehicle. We can put in as much effort as we can with being an individual, but of course voting is very important, either on the ballot or with our dollar.”
Since learning how climate change is linked to other social and economic issues, McKay said it’s what she wanted to devote her energy and time toward.
“For me, it’s more of an equity injustice issue that those who are least responsible for the problem face the worst impact,” said McKay. “To me that’s probably the worst part of this whole problem and I think maybe a lot of people don’t realize that. It’s usually our wealthier, well-developed countries [that] spew out all the greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s those who live in more developing areas or small island states that are experiencing the droughts, the floods.”
McKay is excited to be in a role in which she feels she can make influence in the climate world.
“It’s kind of exciting because I try to look at what other municipalities are doing because we have so much to learn from each other, but there’s not a lot of municipalities our size [taking action], so we’re kind of going to be a leader in that way.”