Finance minister Mike DeJong called the latest BC budget, released on February 18, "boring and balanced." But tucked away in the "boring" budget, big on public spending reductions and LNG promises, provide a few tidbits for the province's clean energy economy.
Chief among those is the expansion of the government's Carbon Neutral Capital Program (CNCP). The program, first piloted in the province's public K-12 education sector, will be expanded to include both the public health and advanced education sectors.
The program is responsible for what BC Liberals say is a "carbon neutral" school system. Under the current scheme, participating sectors pay $25 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, which is then reinvested in carbon-reducing capital upgrades within the ministries. The program run by the Ministry of Education is valued at $5 million annually, according to the budget.
"[This ensures] that funds paid by the sectors for carbon offsets are invested in capital improvements to help the sectors reduce carbon emissions,” the budget reads. The government estimates $14 million a year will be available for reducing GHG emissions in 2014/15.
The move to the CNCP comes on the heels of the dismantling of the controversial Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT), a Gordon Campbell-era program aimed at creating a carbon neutral public service. The dissolution of the trust was supported by both the Liberals and the opposition NDP, after both parties realized it amounted to a fine on cash strapped schools and public organizations. The Victoria Times Colonist noted high profile PCT payments to billion-dollar, out of province companies like Encana concerned many citizens.
"The trust became even more controversial when British Columbians realized that schools were in effect paying fines that were then redirected to private, profit-making companies or to non-profit projects of uncertain value," the newspaper wrote in a November 2013 editorial.
Unlike like the independent trust, CNCP dollars are managed by individual ministries, meaning they are kept with in the sector, the editorial noted. The $25 per ton pricing scheme has been kept intact.