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Cash crunch on climate action created by cancelled CARIP

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
July 5th, 2021

Despite an emphasis on climate action strategies and projects across B.C. the province has elected to drop one of the main municipal climate action program sources of funding.

The province has discontinued the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP), a provincial climate action program that provided municipal government with funds to further their climate goals (as long cities reported their emissions and reported on how they used the funds).

Communities across B.C. relied on the program, and the program was cancelled with no advance notice from the province.

“As a result, municipalities are now left with a gap in funding that advances important climate action work,” noted a city staff report to Nelson city council.

In an effort to secure an alternate funding source, a letter will be sent to the province emphasizing the need to replace CARIP with a flexible, not grant-based, predictable funding stream.

The loss of CARIP reverberated through Nelson City Hall, prompting city council to direct staff to send a letter to the province to advocate for a funding replacement.

Considering where the province wants B.C. to go on climate action, it seemed odd that this program wasn’t updated and expanded said Coun. Jesse Woodward.

“I am just very confused. We are getting mixed messages from the province. We need a clear message from the government” on climate action funding, he said.

Considering the source of the revenue — tax paid by municipalities — that the program could be sustained, pointed out Mayor John Dooley.

“You would think, with the carbon tax being increased annually, there was an opportunity instead to expand this program in whatever manner they saw fit,” he said, and not shut it down.

The cancellation of CARIP will create budgetary gaps moving forward and, as a result, it is worthwhile to engage in advocacy of a replacement program, noted Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) president Brian Frenkel in a letter to all municipalities.

 “While CARIP was a modest sum of money in the scope of the province of B.C.’s budget, the positive impacts of the program were significant. The funding was used by many local governments to showcase innovative new green technologies, and provide a visible example to their communities of the value of implementing climate change actions,” he wrote.

In other local governments, the finding was used to build staff resources and budgets to assist with local government sustainability actions.

In some places the funding was identified as seed funding and used to leverage additional funding from other sources for valuable climate change projects.

“We do acknowledge that a new fund of $11 million has been identified for the 2022 budget. However, the new program has not been designed beyond a reference to land use planning,” Frenkel wrote.

The UBCM was willing to participate in the design of a new program and could draw upon the expertise in the membership as required.

But what municipalities don’t need is another application-based grant program, said city manager Kevin Cormack, and instead institute a direct grant program.

“There needs to be a trust in local government that we will do the right thing,” he said.

The issue is on everyone’s table at the municipal and regional district level said Coun. Janice Morrison, as governments are pushing quickly to see something fill the void the CARIP cut created.

“I think this is important to move along on this and see that it gets replaced,” she said.

Coun. Keith Page thought there was a flaw or two in the way the original program was delivered, but now an opportunity was created to build a better program.

Caring about CARIP

CARIP was created in 2010 after B.C. implemented a carbon tax.

CARIP was a conditional grant program that typically provided funding — to local governments that signed the BC Climate Action Charter — equal to 100 per cent of the carbon taxes they paid directly to support local government operations.

In exchange, cities were required to disclose how they used the funds to further their climate goals and report their greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2020 this funding to BC municipalities amounted to $8.4 million.

In a 2019 report, the province reported that 147 local governments were measuring their emissions through the program, and highlighted a number of projects being funded through CARIP.

Source: City of Nelson

 

Timothy Schafer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the West Kootenay.

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