Campbell River council concerned about carbon trust program

Coun. Andy Adams wrote a letter to council expressing his problems with the Pacific Carbon Trust program

City staff want council to hold off on asking the province to disband a controversial carbon emissions reduction program.

The issue was on council’s Committee of the Whole meeting agenda two weeks ago when Coun. Andy Adams wrote a letter to council expressing his problems with the Pacific Carbon Trust program.

“The B.C. Carbon Trust has been seen as a punitive initiative to the public sectors that are mandated to pay for carbon offsets out of existing operating budgets while the private sector is not required to participate and do not contribute at all,” Adams said.

He noted that last year, public sector institutions, such as local governments and hospitals, paid $18.8 million into the trust which was created by the B.C. government in 2008 in an effort to become carbon neutral. Under the program, B.C. communities are required to purchase carbon offsets to counter their greenhouse gas emissions.

Adams wanted council to endorse having the city write a letter to Premier Christy Clark asking for the immediate repeal of the program.

But city staff, in a report to council released on Friday, are recommending council leave future considerations surrounding the Carbon Trust up to the province.

Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, said the city is not directly affected by the program.

“The city of Campbell River is not directly impacted by the PCT (Pacific Carbon Trust) as the city is not purchasing offsets from PCT,” Zirnhelt wrote. “The city has opted to demonstrate its commitment to the BC Climate Action Charter by allocating the equivalent dollars that would go toward purchasing offsets to a Carbon Neutral Reserve Fund for local, Campbell River-based greenhouse gas reduction projects.

“The amount of money allocated to this fund each year varies according to the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the city and the provincial price of carbon offsets,” Zirnhelt added.

Zirnhelt concluded that the Carbon Trust is being closely monitored by the province and the city should wait for the provincial government’s 2013 review of the program before making any of its own recommendations.

The province has been on the defensive regarding the Carbon Trust since a scathing review of the program was released by former B.C. Auditor General John Doyle. Doyle claimed the province was not meeting its carbon neutral objectives and that the tens of millions of dollars contributed by local governments, hospitals, and schools to buy the carbon offsets weren’t being properly spent. The B.C. government, however, rejects Doyle’s finding that the province has not become carbon neutral.

Council was expected to review Zirnhelt’s report at Tuesday evening’s council meeting after the Mirror went to press.