BC school district says it won’t buy carbon offsets, but will use the money locally …

May 18th, 20133:57 am @

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A small B.C. school district says it’s planning not to buy carbon offsets through a provincial Crown corporation this year but to use that money instead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally.

Frank Lento, chairman of the Southeast Kootenay board of education, said the district is displeased with the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT), which has been widely criticized for taking money from schools, hospitals and universities and funnelling it to private companies, including energy-producer Encana Corporation.

PCT critics include former auditor general John Doyle, who disputed the government’s claim of carbon neutrality, saying the carbon offsets purchased were not credible.

Lento compared the government’s continued promotion of PCT as “selling snake oilâ€� and said: “We are putting (money) into corporate boardrooms … while taking it out of classrooms.â€�

The PCT was created in 2008 as part of a government plan to address climate change. Public institutions were required to purchase carbon offsets from the Crown, which would then use the money to fund greenhouse gas reduction projects at pulp mills, hotels, gas-drilling rigs and greenhouses.

The Southeast Kootenay school district is required to pay PCT almost $80,000 this year, about the same as last year, the board said in a release. But trustees voted this week in favour of creating a reserve fund with an amount equivalent to that of the annual carbon offset purchase and using the money to reduce the district’s own greenhouse gases. The fund would be spent only on board-approved projects that would meet legal requirements for carbon neutrality.

Lento said he hopes the government will agree that the district is still adhering to laws requiring it to reduce carbon emissions. “We’re not ignoring legislation, we’re simply interpreting it in a way that’s more beneficial for our kids,� the release says.

An Education Ministry spokesman said the ministry wasn’t aware of Southeast Kootenay’s plan or of any other school districts headed in the same direction. Lento said he has heard that several municipalities are contemplating similar action this year.

His colleague, Cranbrook trustee Chris Johns, said the district’s plan would not only reduce carbon emissions but also save money in the long term. For example, he pointed to Mount Baker secondary, the largest school in the district, which has an inefficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system.

“We’re just feeding dollar bills into the heat system and that means we’re going to have to keep feeding money to the Pacific Carbon Trust when our school kids and teachers are being asked to do more with less,� he said in a release. “It’s ludicrous.�

The board said it wrote to former education minister George Abbott in November 2011 and February 2012 asking that school districts be allowed to use carbon offsets money to improve their own facilities. But Lento said the only response was a letter saying government was reviewing the issue.

In 2012, the province announced it was giving school districts a break with an annual $5-million grant program intended to offset their costs and help them with electrical and mechanical improvements to schools. But the money was distributed based on project proposals, and Southeast Kootenay only qualified for $9,765 in 2013-14.

jsteffenhagen@vancouversun.com

Article source: http://www.vancouversun.com/school+district+says+carbon+offsets+will+money+locally+instead/8403636/story.html