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Program helping West Kootenay communities meet carbon neutral goal

Nothing like keeping it local.

A new Carbon Neutral Kootenays program administered by three regional districts is helping local governments meet their carbon neutral commitments and keep money in the Kootenays.

Through a joint procurement of Kootenay-based offsets, 12 local governments have signed on to commit to buying Kootenay-based carbon offsets together, meaning the local municipalities and regional districts will save again while keeping the investment in the region.

A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.

The purchase of the carbon offset credits allows the local governments to reach their goal of attaining carbon neutrality, said Regional District of Central Kootenay chair John Kettle.

“While it is not realistic for us to completely eliminate fossil fuels from our operations, we can take responsibility for reducing our emissions and keep those investments in the Kootenays,” he said in a press release.

The regional districts of Kootenay-Boundary (RDKB) and East Kootenay (RDEK) are also involved, as are the cities of Trail, Rossland and Greenwood, and the municipalities of Fruitvale, Kaslo, Midway, Slocan and Invermere. Earlier this week the Village of Montrose signed on for the purchase of carbon credits.

A carbon credit is any tradable certificate or permit that gives the holder the right to emit one tonne of greenhouse gas (usually carbon dioxide).

There are many companies that sell carbon credits—realized from individual “green” projects—to commercial and individual customers interested in lowering their carbon footprint.

By working together over the last four years, local governments across the Columbia Basin and Boundary areas are estimated to have saved up to $750,000 on energy in their own operations, said Larry Gray, chair of the RDKB.

“We are saving energy, emissions and money in our operations through actions such as retrofits,” he said.

“We are piloting approaches to save emissions in our communities such as organics diversion. Becoming carbon neutral is one part of that commitment.”

For the three Kootenays-based regional districts and 28 member municipalities, the combined carbon footprint for the corporate operations of these local governments (2008) is approximately 21,000 tonnes of CO2e per year, according to a July, 2010 report “Carbon Offsets for Kootenay Local Governments.”

Purchasing offsets for these emissions will cost approximately $525,000 annually, it was found, beginning in early 2013 for the 2012 year.

What those local projects will be is not known, however. In the report, identifying local offset projects was a primary goal of local governments and it was expected that the demand for offsets for the next few years would exceed the available supply.

“There is not a simple system (e.g. a map, or screening tool) that could be used to define the possibilities for offset projects,” wrote Ron Macdonald and Dale Littlejohn in their report. “As more protocols become developed, it may be possible to use other data (land use, census stats, etc.) to conduct some form of screening for offset projects.”

Carbon Neutral Kootenays (CNK) project is a multi-year effort supporting local governments and First Nations that are working towards becoming carbon neutral.

The project is focused on reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from municipal, regional and First Nations’ corporate operations.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions at this level and scale is unique and involves 28 Kootenay municipalities, five First Nation communities and three regional districts.

CNK is funded jointly by Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and the regional districts of Central Kootenay, East Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary.

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