Some councillors in North Cowichan are questioning the value of carbon offsets.
Council voted at its meeting on Nov. 15 to have staff prepare a report on the implications of not purchasing the $25,000 targeted toward carbon offsets in the municipality’s draft budget for 2018.
A carbon offset is a credit for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by one party that can be purchased and used to compensate, or offset, the emissions of another party.
As part of ongoing efforts to become more environmentally friendly, most municipalities in B.C. have made a commitment to try to become carbon neutral under the B.C. Climate Action Charter.
Many of them, including North Cowichan, have been working to help achieve this partly through the purchase of carbon offsets.
The municipality paid out $10,000 in its 2017 budget for carbon offsets in its efforts to become carbon neutral.
But the draft budget for 2018 has $25,000 earmarked for offsets due to the need to buy carbon credits next year to continue that commitment.
Coun. Rob Douglas said he’s “skeptical” about just how much impact carbon offsets actually have on climate change.
He said a recent report from the auditor general of B.C. has concluded that efforts to buy carbon offsets to counter greenhouse gas emissions are not proving effective.
“I’m not sure how having us pay $25,000 for carbon offsets next year will do anything to address climate change,” Douglas said.
“If we want to reduce green house gases in North Cowichan, I think we’d be better off giving people the money not to drive their cars for a year.”
Coun. Al Siebring asked if there was any other way the municipality could be environmentally responsible without paying for carbon offsets.
“I’m not for just sending money out our door,” he said.
Mark Frame, North Cowichan’s finance director, said the municipality receives credit from composting and for its environmental efforts with the Echo Heights development.
But he said the municipality still needs to buy 10,000 carbon credits next year to meet its commitment.
“However, if we don’t spend the money on it, the municipality wouldn’t face any penalties,” Frame said.