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Local governments may use own projects to meet carbon neutral goal

British Columbia's minister of state for climate action John Yap today announced new options for municipalities to become carbon neutral by 2012—including creating their own projects.

Municipal governments will be allowed to buy carbon offsets from a list of approved providers, participate in a Green Communities Committee supported project or develop their own local project, Yap said in a speech to a workshop at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

Previously, all public bodies were expected to buy offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust to meet the carbon neutrality requirement. The requirement applies to the 90 percent of local governments that have signed the province's Climate Action Charter. Other public bodies, including school boards and hospitals will still be required to buy carbon offsets from the PCT to achieve carbon neutrality.

Duncan mayor Phil Kent said Yap's announcement represents a major, positive change. Many local leaders wanted to be able to invest the money for carbon offsets in their own communities, rather than send it to the Pacific Carbon Trust, he said. “We've been grinding for this.”

Yap said local projects will be held to rigorous standards to make sure they are credible and many municipalities may find it cheaper to buy offsets. “Change is not easy, it never is, but we have to take these steps,” he said.

GCC supported projects that would qualify include fuel switching, building energy efficiency retrofits, solar hot water retrofits and curbside organic waste diversion, Lois-Leah Goodwin, the director of intergovernmental relations for the ministry of community and rural development, told the workshop.

B.C. municipal governments generate some 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and the PCT sells offsets for $25 a tonne, a panelist said. Across the province, therefore, buying offsets would cost around $7.5 million.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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