Carbon-neutral offsets — semantics for subsidy

School District 27 has officially come out against the provincial government’s carbon neutral scheme.

School District 27 has officially come out against the provincial government’s carbon neutral scheme.

Under the guise of environmental protection, the Liberal government set about a few years back to ensure public agencies achieve zero carbon emissions through a program where they pay for their emissions by purchasing carbon offsets offered by private corporations through the Pacific Carbon Trust, a Crown corporation.

2010 was the first year school districts, health authorities and other public agencies have been required to account and pay for the CO2 they generate in going about their daily business. According to the PCT, offset providers apply, their projects are scrutinized and must qualify as “innovative” before they are accepted as part of the program. If they qualify, providers receive a percentage of funds from the trust to cover project costs; they then have a five-year window to sell their offsets. Further to this, only private business can apply to provide offsets.

The trust’s CEO does not characterize the transfer of funds from public agencies to private companies through PCT as “providing funding.” Rather he suggests it is “purchasing carbon rights.”

But we suggest that’s simply semantics.

The CEO also agreed that most offset providers are private companies and a quick look at the PCT “Showcase” confirms this. Some are as listed: system upgrades for various greenhouses, a cement plant, and several luxury hotels in Whistler, Sun Peaks, Revelstoke and Vancouver. Rather than continue to submit to the current requirements, the school district has requested it be able to put that money ($87,000 this year that it will pay to PCT) in trust in order to pay for future carbon-neutral projects in a corresponding district rather than fund private business.  We hope the government agrees.

Because whether it’s schools, hospitals or other public agencies that are being forced to purchase offsets in this manner it means less money for patient care and student education and less money available for these agencies to improve their facilities to reduce carbon emissions — the point of the exercise.

As it stands, the question has to be asked whether this is an honest attempt to do our part for the environment or simply a carefully packaged taxpayer subsidy to business?

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