It wasn’t a surprise that the first two comments after town council heard a presentation about carbon credits came from Couns. Judy Gadicke and Tanya Ducharme. They are typically the first two members on council to raise questions and challenge assumptions.
Gadicke always questions spending and Ducharme has lots of experience in environmental issues relating to carbon emissions from her work at Columbia Brewery.
The presentation was made by Carbon Neutral Kootenays, an organization formed and funded by the three regional districts in the southeast of the province, and a number of municipalities. Chalk the formation of CNK up to good decision-making, an effort to help guide local governments to reduce their carbon footprint and to help identify local projects that offer carbon credits.
My first brush with carbon credits came a number of years ago when we were purchasing flight tickets to Europe. Did we want to purchase carbon credits to offset our contribution to carbon emissions the flight would make? the website asked. I was unfamiliar with the concept so I did some research, learning that non-profits and for-profit companies were setting up systems that allow companies and governments to offset their own carbon emissions by purchasing credits from projects which help reduce carbon emissions. Planting forests with long-term management plans is one way but there is a myriad of others, more popping up almost daily. I did purchase credits, thinking that every little bit helps.
CNK estimates that the Town of Creston emitted as much 300 tons of carbon in excess of its neutral target, one that it signed an agreement with the province to hit. That means that it needs to purchase carbon credits to achieve neutral status. The CNK recommendation is to purchase credits from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which purchased the Darkwoods forest on the south side of Kootenay Lake. By selling credits, the conservancy will be able to pay for at least part of the cost of the purchase and provide guarantees that portions, if not all, of the land will not be logged. Cutting trees is one way that carbon is released into the atmosphere.
The cost to create a carbon neutral footprint isn’t much. CNK said they expect the town’s emissions will actually be under 300 tons and the maximum purchase price will be $25 a ton, but more likely closer to $15. The town has been told to budget for a $7,500 cost, but to expect it will end up to be $5,000 or even less. Not much in the big picture, but still, for a local government that is trying to hold back spending in light of last year’s addition of policing costs to its budget, every dollar counts.
Gadicke, who commented at the start of the discussion that “I should have been wearing my T-shirt that says ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’ ” did question what the ramifications of ignoring the carbon neutral agreement would be.
The answer to that was a simple one. On many application forms for provincial government funding and grants a question is now commonly asked, “Are you a carbon neutral government?” How many town councils or regional districts are going to resist buying a few thousand dollars worth of carbon credits and risk losing tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions, in provincial funding? Not many, I suspect. And it would be even less credible to resist after having signed an agreement.
I am reminded of an All in the Family episode in which Archie Bunker went to night school to get his high school diploma so he would have a chance at a supervisory position on his loading dock. Eventually the job went to a co-worker, who Bunker referred to as Black Elmo. At the end of the show, Bunker slumped into his chair and said, “And here I am, stuck with a high school diploma.”
I’m not sure that carbon credits will make a difference in climate change but I think it would be irresponsible to risk not doing anything. At worst we will be stuck with a cleaner environment.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.