A carbon neutral RDEK or not?

Regional District of East Kootenay may not be able to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by the end of 2012

Five years ago, the Regional District of East Kootenay pledged it would save us many greenhouse gas emissions as it spends by the time 2013 rolled around.

But last week, the board of directors decided to wait on the final step in achieving that goal.

In 2007, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) signed the Climate Action Charter, pledging to be carbon neutral in 2012. It was joined by the Regional Districts of Kootenay Boundary and Central Kootenay and initiated the Carbon Neutral Kootenays (CNK) project.

At a governance committee meeting on Thursday, November 1, CNK project manager Dale Littlejohn gave the RDEK board of directors an overview of how the regional districts have worked towards carbon neutrality since 2007.

The Kootenay governments spend about $11 million a year on energy – to heat buildings, power lights, and move their vehicles between 388 buildings and 995 vehicles.

Energy assessments in municipal buildings, wastewater treatment plants and recreation facilities have saved the governments about $750,000 in energy savings.

“We understand how much energy and emissions we’ve got, we’ve estimated the offset costs and total GHG emissions we have to take responsibility for. Now is the time we start thinking about greenhouse gas offsets,” said Littlejohn.

He explained that an offset is generated by a combination of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, avoiding GHG emissions, and sequestering GHG emissions.

Planning manager Andrew McLeod explained to the board that after all of the energy savings, the RDEK still has to account for 730 tonnes of GHG emissions.

“In order to call ourselves carbon neutral and meet the Climate Action Charter commitment, the purchase of offsets is going to be necessary. If the board chooses not to pursue that, we can do any number of other things with that money in our community, but we will not be able to call ourselves carbon neutral and carry that designation,” said McLeod.

In time, the regional district may be able to balance its emissions through community-based projects, such as energy efficient building retrofits, vehicle fuel switching, solar hot water, household organic waste composting, and low emission vehicles. But the RDEK does not have those projects ready yet, and regardless, they are unlikely to save enough GHGs to reach carbon neutrality.

“They are never going to achieve carbon neutrality for your government. They are only going to help chip away at that total liability which for the regional district is 730 tonnes. So the purchasing of carbon offsets is almost guaranteed to always be a requirement to achieve carbon neutral local government. That piece of the puzzle is always going to be there, it just depends how many actions you can take along the way to reduce that total liability,” said McLeod.

Both Littlejohn and McLeod recommended that the board purchase carbon offsets at $25 per tonne, for a total of $18,250 in the Darkwoods conservation project near Creston. Then the regional district would be able to call itself carbon neutral for 2012.

“We are recommending this for offsetting your 2012 emissions, and you would do that in spring 2013,” said Littlejohn. “This is a way to achieve carbon neutrality in the timeframe that local government has committed to, while keeping the money in the Kootenays.”

But the board was split on the validity of purchasing carbon offsets.

“I’m dead against buying offsets,” said Area A Director Mike Sosnowski. “In my mind, it’s unreasonable that you put the money in the bank – you might as well burn it.”

He said that since the federal government isn’t committed to carbon neutrality, it seems unreasonable for local governments to make the commitment. He said he would rather spend the $18,000 on local projects that would result in GHG emissions.

However, Invermere Director Gerry Taft pointed out that local projects would be much more expensive.

“In order to decrease the number of tons of carbon that the regional district needs to decrease in order to become carbon neutral, it would cost a lot more money than $18,000 a year. I’m not sure for a $1 million  project how many tonnes of carbon you can decrease, but it’s definitely going to be higher than $25 a tonne.”

Cranbrook Director Bob Whetham said it would take too long to identify a local project to offset this year’s carbon emissions.

“We’re not going to be able to chase around all over the region for something that’s going to give us the offsets we need to qualify. We are better off just dealing with the $18,000 and continuing to proceed with all the efforts we have, whether they qualify for eligibility or not, and just move on.”

Eventually, the board decided to wait before making a decision on purchasing carbon offsets, to allow staff more time to identify East Kootenay projects for the investment.

But, according to McLeod, “the commitment we signed on to in 2007 when we signed the Climate Action Charter is to be carbon neutral in 2012. The time to do that is between now and March when the offset purchase is required.”

Just Posted

New lights shine on local stage

Upgrades at Studio Stage Door theatre illuminate a new era for Cranbrook Community Theatre

SD5 protesting changes to B.C. graduation program

The Southeast Kootenay board of education is protesting changes to the B.C.… Continue reading

PDGA-sanctioned disc golf tournament takes place this weekend

The Double Disc Golf Cup takes at the Wycliffe and Cranbrook courses

Know It All: Kimberley Cranbrook entertainment guide

Key City Theatre Gallery Mount Baker Student Exhibition “Touch” Art That Makes… Continue reading

Fire Department called to trailer fire south of Cranbrook

Cranbrook Fire Department and emergency services were called to the scene of… Continue reading

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Hugs & Slugs

Slugs: Huge Slugs to the rude, abusive elderly couple at the Superstore… Continue reading

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

Most Read