City operations must be carbon neutral by year’s end if council wants to fulfil its Climate Action Charter commitments.
The city is required to meet that goal as a signatory to the charter, introduced by the provincial government in 2007.
The city adopted a carbon neutral plan in 2011 which includes the city’s 2008 and 2009 greenhouse gas emissions, emission reduction targets for 2012, 2020 and 2050, and a plan of action for further reductions.
For 2012, the city targeted a 10 per cent reduction below 2008 greenhouse gas emission levels.
Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, said the city achieved that and more as corporate greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 12.8 per cent when compared to 2008 levels.
“In 2008, the city’s corporate greenhouse gas emissions were 1,485 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) and in 2011 the emissions have been reduced to 1,300 tonnes of CO2e,” Zirnhelt said. “The actions taken by the city to reduce emissions have resulted in overall savings for operating costs for our buildings, utilities, and fleet.”
The goal for 2020 is a 35 per cent reduction below 2008 levels and in 2050, an 85 per cent reduction below 2008 levels.
Zirnhelt said the city exceeded its 2012 target through building and utility energy retrofits including lighting; solar panels to heat the water at the RCMP building, downtown Fire Hall, Sportsplex, and Simms Creek lift station; as well as city vehicle upgrades and introducing five per cent biodiesel for those vehicles.
To achieve carbon neutrality by the end of the year, the city will have to buy offsets or invest in local greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. Or the city can show it’s moving towards being carbon neutral by opening a savings fund ear-marked for municipal projects.
If the city chooses to purchase offsets it will cost $32,500-$40,000 at the end of 2012, based on the city’s greenhouse gas emission inventories from the past four years and the current price of carbon at $25 per tonne.
As an alternative, the city could invest in projects such as energy efficient buildings for privately owned buildings; solar hot water heating retrofits for privately owned buildings; household organized waste composting; and low-emission vehicles for public transportation, police and airport.
The city could also go a completely different route and instead allocate the same dollar value that would go toward offsets, in a carbon neutral reserve fund for future use for city projects.
Although this is not B.C.’s preferred action, Zirnhelt is recommending the carbon meutral reserve fund to council.
“Such a fund will enable the city to continue to make greenhouse gas emission reductions to municipal assets, reducing our carbon footprint, and operating costs,” said Zirnhelt.
Zirnhelt said the reserve fund is an interim measure that would keep the city well-positioned in taking that step towards meeting the city’s carbon neutrality requirements.