A goal not met for 2012

Carbon neutrality proving elusive for many municipalities

It was a lofty goal. When the City of Kimberley signed onto the BC Climate Action Charter agreement, the intention was to become carbon neutral by 2012.

The Province announced the Climate Action Revenue Incentive program in September of 2008 to offset the carbon tax for local governments who have signed the B.C. Climate Action Charter. To be eligible for the program, and some government grants, municipalities were required to report annually on the steps they were taking — and progress made — to become carbon neutral by 2012.

The City did undertake a number of steps, including measuring greenhouse gas emissions that come from municipal operations such as buildings and vehicles. The City has completed a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan and is working on its implementation.

However, as Coun. Albert Hoglund stated at Council this week, carbon neutrality in 2012 is not going to happen.

“Nobody at the time of signing thought we’d be carbon neutral in 2012,” Hoglund said. “And we still have a long way to go.”

However, the issue is coming up because Council must soon decide whether to purchase offsets.

A carbon offset makes up for a municipality’s extra greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially you purchase offsets for every metric tonne of greenhouse gases you produce that are not offset by other energy savings.

For instance, the RDEK has projected that it will fall short by 730 tonnes this year and if it purchases offsets, the cost will be about $18,000. If the offsets are purchased, the RDEK can declare that it is carbon neutral.

RDEK Board members are concerned about spending money like that when there are so many projects

Kimberley will soon face a similar decision.

Mayor Ron McRae acknowledges that there was definitely a difference of opinion at the RDEK level about offset purchases.

He anticipates there will be quite a conversation at Kimberley Council when they must make the decision on whether or not to purchase offsets.

“Council hasn’t discussed it yet,” he said. “But by the end of November we will need to make a decision.”

The City’s Manager of Planning Services, Troy Pollock, says that there is an option for communities to opt out of purchasing offsets, but more information is required before Council can make a decision.

“What we’re not clear on is whether there is any penalty for not purchasing offsets,” Pollock said. “Most communities have signed the charter. We have been tracking energy use and emissions and have been making a concerted effort to reduce. Many communities are grappling with this. We’ve taken a number of actions but it’s difficult to reduce down to zero.”

Pollock says the exact amount Kimberley would have to purchase in carbon offsets to be carbon neutral won’t be known until everything for 2012 is counted, but they can project on previous years.

“Based on 2010, we had 1275 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

If the City purchased from a carbon offset supplier such as the Pacific Carbon Trust, which charges $25 per tonne, that would amount to about $32,000.

“Hopefully, with the actions we’ve taken since then, our emissions will be lower,” Pollock said. “But we won’t know until the end of the year.”

The actual deadline for a decision on the purchase of carbon offsets to declare carbon neutrality for 2012 is March of 2013. Pollock said that hopefully by then there will be more clarity on what the repercussions for not purchasing offsets may be.