Nanaimo joins RDN emissions-reduction agreement

Regional District of Nanaimo municipalities are teaming up to fight climate change and pursue goals of carbon emission reduction.

Lantzville, Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach signed on to the province's legally non-binding Climate Action Charter in an effort to protect the environment, and together, city officials say they feel they can tackle the problem more efficiently. About ninety-five per cent of B.C. municipalities have signed up for the provincial program.

Requirements under the charter include that municipalities to become carbon neutral in 2012, measuring and reporting community greenhouse gas emissions, and creating as energy efficient communities as possible.

A Nanaimo city staff report says it is unlikely Nanaimo will ever reduce emissions to zero and as a result will be required to purchase carbon offsets in order to achieve its carbon neutral goals.

The report says the city currently sets aside $175,000 annually for projects designed to conserve energy or lower greenhouse gas emissions. That money will now be needed to buy offsets, which generally sell at a cost of about $25 per tonne.

"We're obligated to become carbon neutral and what we thought the impact of that would be that we would have to buy carbon offsets from somebody, like the Pacific Carbon Trust," said Brian Clemens, the city's director of finance. "But now we have an opportunity where instead we can use the money in our own community because the RDN took the initiative to create this regional approach."

Based on a 2008 study, Nanaimo is responsible for about 6,500 tonnes of emissions annually, but an RDN study suggests that the perfect threshold for the program to be effective is about 10,000 tonnes of GHG emissions, or about the same as all of the RDN member communities.

"We're better off going together because pooling our offsets, our emissions, pushes us close to that 10,000-tonne threshold and, in a sense, pooling our jurisdictions overcomes some of the geographical constraints," said Chris Midgley, manager of energy and sustainability for the RDN. "We do want this cost to remain in the region and we think there is potential environmental benefits that can come from addressing carbon emission reduction projects within the region."

Some implications for the City of Nanaimo through the agreement include: creation of a statutory reserve for regional emission reduction projects; annual funding into a reserve to fund GHG offsets instead of contributing to the city's sustainability reserve (no new cost); and that all funding approval goes through a management committee.

As part of the agreement, any of the municipalities can opt to purchase carbon offsets instead of contributing to projects and any party can withdraw from the agreement with suitable notice.

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