School District 5 (SD5) is expected to pay out close to $80,000 in carbon offsets to the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT) in order to comply with the government’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. The amount is similar to what the school board paid last year.
Under the act, school districts are required to offset carbon footprints, most of which are a result of greenhouse gas emissions from old and inefficient school buildings, by purchasing carbon offsets from the PCT at a fixed price of $25 per ton. This rate is often much higher than fluctuating market rates.
At a meeting last week, the board instead directed staff to research the development of a SD5 reserve fund equivalent to the annual carbon credit offset purchase they are expected to pay to the PCT.
“We understand that there are a number of municipalities that will be doing this type of thing as well, and we think it makes sense,” says Board Chair, Frank Lento.
According to Lento, these funds would be held in reserve to be used towards carbon footprint reducing measures within SD5 operations, as approved by the board, in order to be considered carbon neutral under provincial legislation.
Lento is optimistic that the government will view the board’s Carbon Offsets Reserve Fund as complying with legislation, given that the fund’s sole purpose is to address carbon emissions. He also pointed out that school buildings represent one of the single largest opportunities for reducing public sector greenhouse gas emissions.
Lento explained, “If our district had been able to invest the $80,000 paid to the PCT last year in a solar wall upgrade in one of our schools, we would have achieved a reduction in our carbon footprint while realizing an annual $9,000 in energy savings.”
Lento describes the lost opportunity to save $9,000 as a direct reduction in funding available for regular operating expenses. “These operating expenses ultimately mean less dollars spent in the classroom and that’s bad for kids.”
This isn’t the first time the board has tried to encourage the government to adjust the way they deal with carbon offsets. The board sent a letter to previous Minister of Education George Abbott both in November 2011 and February 2012, asking the government to
ensure that carbon offsets paid out by school districts are set aside for the sole purpose of upgrading school district facilities to reduce carbon footprints.
“So far we haven’t seen any concrete changes from government, although we’ve been told that there would be changes,” said Lento. “Our kids simply can’t wait any longer. “That’s why the Board has decided to create this reserve fund. We’re not ignoring legislation, we’re simply interpreting it in a way that’s more beneficial for our kids.”
A copy of the complete motion carried by the board at its May 2013 meeting is available to the public online at www.sd5.bc.ca.