Regional district misses carbon neutrality target

The regional district agreed to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2012

The Strathcona Regional District failed to achieve carbon neutrality last year, despite being a signatory to the province’s Climate Action Charter.

Russ Hotsenpiller, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, said that as a participant in the charter the regional district agreed to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2012, and measure and report on greenhouse gas emissions.

“The regional district generated 783 tonnes of CO2 and has not achieve carbon neutrality for 2014,” wrote Hotsenpiller in report to the regional district board. “However, the regional district succeeded in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 865 in 2013, a reduction of 82 tonnes.”

Hotsenpiller said that was a result of lower electricity and natural gas consumption at Strathcona Gardens thanks to the energy loop which recycles excess energy. It was also in part to carbon credits gained through the Southern Cortes Community Association heat-pump conversion project.

Hotsenpiller said the regional district has the option of purchasing carbon off-sets (a reduction in carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions made to compensate for an emission made elsewhere) as a way of achieving carbon neutrality, which is estimated to cost $19,000, or the organization could invest in carbon-credit approved projects to reduce carbon emissions.

Those options were up for discussion at the July 23 regional board meeting but not all directors were buying into the climate charter.

“I’m totally against this,” said Area A Director Gerald Whalley. “First of all there’s many scientists saying this whole global warming is nonsense.

“I think we have no real obligation to do this and I would prefer to not incur extra costs on our taxpayers when there’s no scientific evidence of this.”

But Campbell River Director Andy Adams said the regional district is paying one way or another, whether or not it buys carbon offsets or it invests in energy reduction projects.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said it’s not too difficult to collect carbon credits through investment in energy saving projects.

Leigh said Area D projects planned for 2015 such as a water booster pump water station, replacement of bus shelters in Oyster River, and the Maple Park community garden all go towards carbon credits even though they weren’t necessarily done with that in mind.

“I did these projects for other reasons, I want the booster pump station to boost water pressure, I want the community garden for recreational purposes,” Leigh said. “They happen to be projects that we can tell the government are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but that wasn’t the primary motive, we’re just doing what we have to do to report and they happen to be environmentally sound.”

To which board chair and Area C Director Jim Abram replied, “there’s nothing wrong with accidentally doing something right.”

The board in the end agreed to consider options for establishing a climate action reserve fund during its 2016 budget planning.

Such a reserve would either support regional district projects that will make progress on carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or help the organization purchase carbon off-sets from organizations such as the Community Carbon Marketplace or another third party provider.

The Community Carbon Marketplace is an online forum for organizations to buy and sell community carbon credits generated by greenhouse gas emission reduction projects.

The City of Campbell River is also a signatory to the B.C. Climate Action Charter and, like the regional district, also failed to become carbon neutral by 2012, though it did reduce emissions by 12.8 per cent over 2008 which was 2.8 per cent better than the city’s goal.

Amber Zirnhelt, who was the city’s sustainability manager in 2012, said at the time that the goal was unrealistic because it would require that the city’s entire fleet become electric which she said just isn’t possible with some of the city’s vehicles.

Zirnhelt said it would also require that all of the city’s energy reserves were renewable – either hydro, electric or thermal, instead of gas.