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Carbon neutrality by 2012 for regional district becoming a difficult goal: report

The regional district is experiencing “difficulty” in achieving its emissions reduction target set for 2012, according to an internal report from its Environmental Services coordinator.

As a participant in the Carbon Neutral Kootenays project, the Regional District of Central Kootenay adopted a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan which establishes a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 12 per cent below 2008 levels by 2012.

However, Lauren Rethoret, Environmental Services coordinator, said the goal was based on greenhouse gas emissions inventory that has now proven to be incorrect.

She said when the initial plan was developed, the RDCK’s carbon footprint for 2008 was calculated at 2,857 tonnes of CO2e. As well, the 2012 emissions reduction target was set at 2,514 tonnes.

Rethoret said there were errors in that calculation, and a re-calculation in September, 2011 now shows the RDCK’s 2008 carbon footprint to be 1,976 tonnes CO2e.

That means if the 12 per cent reduction goal were applied to the recalculated 2008 inventory, the RDCK’s emissions goal in 2012 will be 1,739 tonnes.

“(We) estimate that the RDCK’s emissions will equal between 2,100 and 2,300 tonnes in 2011, one year before the target should be met,” Rethoret said in her report. “This amount is at least 361 tonnes above the target and 124 tonnes above 2008 levels.”

Several new services added between 2009 and 2011 account for the discrepancy, including an expanded recreation facility in Creston (a 368-tonne increase), and three new water services in 2012.

Even before the error was found, there was some concern at the regional district — like other municipal governments across the province — that signing on to the Province’s Climate Action Charter to become carbon neutral by 2012 was placing significant strain on the organization’s financial and administrative capacity.

The Carbon Neutral Kootenays consultant, Stantec, reported that most communities have not been able to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions over a short time period. It usually takes up to three years to plan and implement projects that improve the organization’s carbon footprint, Stantec revealed.

As a result, the Province recently offered an option to defer becoming carbon neutral, allowing governments to claim they were making “progress towards carbon neutrality” by measuring, reducing and reporting on emissions.

But Rethoret did not recommend the RDCK pursue the option.

“This organization is well ahead of most others in terms of carbon measurement and reporting requirements, and taking the step to become carbon neutral would further allow the RDCK to demonstrate leadership amongst local governments,” she wrote.

Keeping the 2012 commitment would provide an incentive towards significant reductions in the final year before beginning to purchase offsets, Rethoret felt.

Emissions credits purchased from an offset provider, like Pacific Carbon Trust, are estimated to cost $25 per tonne. At 2010 emissions levels (2,254 tonnes), the RDCK would need to spend $56,350 in 2013 to achieve the carbon neutral goal.

For the remainder of 2011 and through 2012, the RDCK will continue its carbon emissions reductions by:

  • making further efficiency improvements to its fleet;
  • amend existing policies to support emissions considerations in management and purchasing decision; and
  • evaluate the efficiency of key buildings and investigate associated opportunities to reduce natural gas emissions.