British Columbia’s public sector has been carbon neutral for five years, according to a report released by the province.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment says the province achieved neutrality by measuring all of its public sector emissions and purchasing carbon offsets to balance them out. It has spent $53 million on emission offsets between 2010 and 2014. It also worked to reduce emissions wherever possible.
According to the report, titled Leading By Example, the B.C. public sector generated 46,000 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 compared to the baseline year of 2010, equivalent to taking 9,800 cars off the road.
B.C. claims it is the first provincial, state, or territorial government in North America to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
All data were submitted to a third-party auditor for verification.
Some of the reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions came from infrastructure and heating retrofits, according to the report. Success stories outlined include the Sechelt Hospital’s geothermal energy system, the Victoria Royal Jubilee Hospital’s waste heat recovery project, and Vancouver Community College’s infrastructure upgrades. Those upgrades led to a 22 per cent reduction in emissions at the college.
“What’s become clear over the past five years is that counting the cost of carbon pollution is good for both the environment and the bottom line,” wrote B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak in the report’s introduction. “Schools are redirecting funds they used to spend on energy directly to education... and hospitals have reinvested revenues in patient care.”
The picture is less rosy, however, for province-wide greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 memo from the federal government showed that Environment Canada predicted B.C.’s emissions would actually increase by 11 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. The government had been hoping to reduce the province’s emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020.
Late last year, Minister Polak told the Times Colonist she had “no reason to doubt” that B.C. will miss its 2020 emissions targets. A report commissioned by Premier Christy Clark noted the province’s 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent below 2007 levels is still possible, but required “ambitious actions”. The recommendations in the report include increasing the carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year between 2018 and 2050. The report also recommended reducing the provincial sales tax by one per cent to support families and businesses.