SD43 eyes cash back for carbon offsets

School District 43 is looking forward to getting some money back from the carbon offsets it pays to the Pacific Carbon Trust. - FILE
School District 43 is looking forward to getting some money back from the carbon offsets it pays to the Pacific Carbon Trust.
— image credit: FILE

Thousands of dollars School District 43 pays in carbon offsets for its energy and paper use could be coming back for energy conservation projects.

But it's not known yet how much money will be reimbursed and what the funds would be used for.

"We haven't received anything about how it's supposed to work," said secretary treasurer Rick Humphreys.

He was responding to an announcement last week by Environment Minister Terry Lake that a new capital account would be established to make $5 million available to school districts for energy efficient projects that will lower their carbon emissions.

Last year the district paid about $260,000 in offsets to the Pacific Carbon Trust and about the same amount this year in keeping with provincial government aims to make public institutions such as schools and hospitals "carbon neutral."

SD43 has been paying money to the trust based on its paper, fuel and electricity use at the equivalent of about $25 a tonne for estimated greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). It may still be expected to do so, but at least some of the money will be returned.

As well, school districts will no longer have to pay the costs of using the SMARTool software that is used to calculate and report carbon emissions. The tool cost the district about 82 cents a student or $24,600 a year.

The carbon offset scheme has long been a thorn in the side of school districts and recently the BC School Trustees Association passed a resolution calling for the carbon offset fees to be reinvested solely in board of education projects. Previously those funds had been deposited into the Pacific Carbon Trust and then distributed to third parties such as Encana Corporation and other private sector industries for projects to help reduce their carbon emissions.

Among the projects the money could be used for are lighting and HVAC upgrades to reduce energy and natural gas consumption. The district is also moving toward a new print strategy, with the goal of upgrading its photocopiers and setting policy to cut down on printing and paper use

However, it could be some time before the district gets some of this cash because the Ministry of Education is only now developing a formula for distributing these offset fees. Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes has bee appointed by the BCSTA to help the ministry allocate funds from its new Energy Efficient Capital Account.

— with files from the Burnaby News Leader.


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