VICTORIA - B.C.'s public sector is officially carbon neutral, a first for any province or state in North America and an achievement that places British Columbia on the leading edge of climate action and growth in the clean-energy and clean-technology sectors.
To kick-start carbon-neutral efforts, B.C. launched a $75-million public-sector energy conservation capital fund in 2008. It has funded 247 energy projects in schools, hospitals, colleges, universities and other government buildings across the province. Once complete, those projects are expected to reduce carbon output by 36,500 tonnes, create 500 jobs and save organizations about $12.6 million in annual energy costs.
"From this point forward, every government building in our province will be carbon neutral, and that is spurring innovation in our growing clean-energy and clean-tech sectors and that's helping create jobs for British Columbians," said Environment Minister Terry Lake. "By providing capital funding for clean-energy and conservation projects upfront, organizations are realizing savings that can be reinvested in front-line services."
B.C.'s carbon-neutral regulation requires all public-sector organizations to measure, reduce and offset greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from buildings, vehicle fleets and paper use.
Provincial public-sector operations spent $18.2 million to offset 730,000 tonnes of GHGs in 2010, well within targets set when the carbon-neutral regulation was introduced in 2007.
"In this first chapter of our carbon-neutral success story we've shown cutting emissions creates savings and new jobs." said Lake. "Taking a leadership role on carbon emissions has meant change and, in some cases, challenges for some organizations. The next chapter will be about working with those organizations on ways to lower their offset costs and see greater savings."
Carbon Neutral B.C.: Transforming the Public Sector
Operating a carbon-neutral public sector is a key part of B.C.'s commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. The 730,000 tonnes offset by the public sector is equivalent to the annual energy use of 62,000 homes a year. It includes emissions from more than 7,000 buildings, paper use, and vehicle fleets with the exception of school and transit buses, which are exempt. Government ministries also offset emissions from business travel. The 2010 emissions data will help improve sector-wide energy management in future years.
More than Just the Numbers
B.C. public-sector operations contribute only one per cent of all GHGs generated in the province but the sector has a big reach in terms of opportunity to inspire change in the nearly two million British Columbians who work, learn in, or visit public sector buildings. You can read success stories from schools, hospitals, colleges and universities that are cutting their carbon pollution, saving money and inspiring others at: www.livesmartbc.ca/attachments/carbon_neutral_action_reports/CarbonNeutralBC-transformingBCpublicsector.pdf
Helping Schools and Hospitals Become Carbon Neutral
School districts invested $4.4 million to offset emissions in 2010 while receiving five times that amount for energy conservation projects and carbon tax reimbursements since 2008.
Health authorities invested $5.4 million to offset 2010 emissions and received more than $25 million to improve energy efficiency in existing facilities. When these projects are complete, health authorities estimate that operating costs could decrease by as much as $5 to $6 million annually.
Where does the offset money go?
B.C.'s public sector buys emissions offsets from Pacific Carbon Trust. That investment, in turn, helps fund GHG-reduction projects elsewhere in B.C. To qualify for offset financing, projects must go beyond business-as-usual practices and demonstrate emissions reductions that are real, permanent and quantifiable. On average, the public-sector investment represents five per cent of the capital investment required to make an offset project happen. For every dollar PCT invests, an additional $20 in private sector investment is raised to generate more emissions reductions and economic activity across the province. For details, visit www.pacificcarbontrust.com.
Who supports a carbon-neutral B.C.?
Many have made the commitment: other governments, businesses looking to be good corporate citizens and gain the power of green branding, and municipalities like Harrison Hot Springs that became B.C.'s first carbon-neutral municipality this month. B.C. is the first government to make carbon-neutral operations law and achieve it on this scale.
"We know there is a strong link between a healthy environment and a healthy population. Giving us responsibility for carbon emissions and putting a price on them is key to improving the health of residents within the Interior Health region and across B.C. Peers from across Canada have told me I am lucky to be working in B.C. I have the mandate and wind in my sails to imbed sustainability within our operations. I hope the great work we are doing in B.C. helps empower others."
Aman Hundal, Manager of Environmental Sustainability, Interior Health
"I've been in education over 30 years. I don't know that I've ever been in a time where I'm seeing so many students and staff as engaged as they are about our facility, concern about energy, concern about our environment, and it's really cool to see."
Bill Village, Principal, Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, Comox
"By mandating the public sector to offset their building GHG emissions, B.C. is driving energy efficiency and GHG reduction. The carbon tax and offsets encourage building owners and designers to think about the entire life of the building and to try and make it as efficient as possible. B.C. is leading North America in making the transition to a low carbon economy."
Jason F. McLennan, CEO, Cascadia Green Building Council
"High-quality offsets offer a valuable tool for reducing carbon emissions and they have an added benefit: establishment of verified offsets markets opens new business opportunities while stimulating development and adoption of the clean-energy technologies we must have as we transition to a zero-carbon society."
Dr. Tom Pederson, E.D., Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions
Ministry of Environment