Carbon offsets purchase a no-go for regional district

Regional District of East Kootenays opts instead to fund green projects

The Regional District of the East Kootenay (RDEK) has decided to forgo purchasing carbon offsets from the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project as part of its efforts to be carbon neutral for 2012. The RDEK will instead allocate the money that would have been used to an Energy Conservation Reserve Fund.

The fund will be used to support local energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects in the future, and the district will contribute $25 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the district’s corporate activities.

The Darkwoods is a 55,000 hectare tract of largely undeveloped land in southern Selkirk mountains, located roughly between Creston and Nelson, lauded as North America’s largest private forest carbon project to date that meets the Verified Carbon Standard — the quality standard for the voluntary carbon offset industry. A recent B.C. auditor general report brought into question whether or not it is a legitimate source of carbon offsets.

The Carbon Neutral Kootenay Project, a non-profit society helping local Kootenay governments meet the carbon neutral goals laid out in B.C. Climate Action Charter, recommended the change in direction.

“Carbon Neutral Kootenay said there’s uncertainty around Darkwoods, but it would be great to keep momentum (in efforts to reduce energy and emissions) going,” said RDEK district planner Matt Gunn. “The idea is to instead use the fund for much more local energy efficiency projects.”

To that end, the Carbon Neutral Kootenay Project has put out a request for projects, looking for ideas on how the money in the fund can be specifically spent.

Mr. Gunn said the district will look at two main types of projects:  avoiding deforestation (either by designating regional parks or by designing extra green space in subdivisions), and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient — or at least switching the type of fuel the building uses to something that produces less carbon.

The Carbon Neutral Kootenay Project has also suggested it may consider solar thermal retrofitting, household organic waste composting, and using lower emission vehicles for public transportation and police forces.