A provincial program aimed at creating a carbon neutral municipalities could end up costing Trail in the future, a City of Trail staff report has warned.
In its Governance and Operations Committee report to city council March 11, city staff warned that the entire cost of the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program Public Report (CARIP) will incur a significant amount of city personnel time and resources as time goes on.
In order to keep complying and supporting the program the city would eventually have costs over and above the carbon grant—tax back from the province paid on utility bills—and buying carbon offsets, the report noted.
In 2012 the city was able to create a slight residual after buying carbon offsets at a reduced rate through the Carbon Neutral Kootenay (CNK) Consortium—a Kootenay-wide partnership of municipalities and regional districts.
But other B.C. Communities who signed on to the province’s Climate Action Charter weren’t so fortunate in purchasing cheap carbon offsets.
“It is really unclear what the net gains are at this time and many are questioning the real value based on how this program has been set-up; especially for some public organizations that currently have to pay significantly for offsets at the expense of programs and services,” city chief administrative officer David Perehudoff said in his report.
“Carbon neutrality from the perspective of being purely carbon neutral is impossible, so that’s where the carbon offsets come in.”
The city was very fortunate this year that CNK worked a “favourable offset agreement,” said Perehudoff. But he did not know if the agreement would occur in the long-term meaning, ultimately, there could be a cost to the city going forward.
The city spent $30,487 on carbon taxes in 2012 and the carbon tax refund was slightly more.
If the city had to purchase the offsets through the Pacific Carbon Trust, the offset cost would have been $31,850 and have left the city in a slight deficit position.
“It’s a concern for us, not only in the context of what we paid today, but obviously in the future if that number as far as the carbon offset goes, goes up,” said Perehudoff.
Although the intent of the program—to get municipalities and regional districts to reduce how much carbon (fossil fuel) they produce—is sound, the goal of attaining carbon neutrality for a city is not, said councillor Gord DeRosa, and that price may eventually be too high to pay.
“I think the provincial government has dropped the file here,” he said. “There has not been a lot said and directed and I don’t think it was thought out as thorough as it might have been.”
He felt the province was in the process of re-examining the program to see if it could be delivered better.
Meanwhile, the Silver City staff are doing what they can with what they have, said DeRosa, the councillor in charge of the Public Works portfolio. The city has not identified projects that are going to reduce its carbon footprint immediately, he explained.
“Rather, we adopted a philosophy that when things needed to be repaired or replaced we would do it with the most energy efficient technology available,” he said. “When the need comes we will find the funds to replace or repair or adjust to adopt a carbon reduction gain.”
The city has taken a slow approach to adopting and achieving its goal and it is working for them, with a 30 per cent reduction in power usage with recent HVAC upgrade at the Trail Aquatic Centre.
The program and the overall economic strain on the city versus the real gains in terms of the program design, the cost to deliver, and the real benefits should be measured, said Perehudoff in his report.
“Council may want to ask that the province provide such accounting,” he said. “Each public body is spending significantly to comply and the provincial bureaucracy established to administer the program must be very significant.”
Mayor Dieter Bogs agreed. Right now the CARIP program seems to be a bureaucratic book keeping event.
“Eventually it will change. I’m sure the government didn’t set that up to have a bureaucratic book keeping event,” he said.
The city submitted its 2012 CARIP report to the province along with its 2012 carbon consumption calculations using the SmartTool, as well as the grant application based on the city’s carbon tax paid.
In short, the city produced 1,274 tonnes of carbon in 2012, including 92 tonnes from third party contracted services.
As a result, the city will purchase $20,000 in carbon offsets from the Darkwoods project council approved of earlier this year.