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Province’s carbon offsets formula not working for school district

School District 5 recently sent a letter to Education Minister George Abbott pointing out that in 2010 the District paid out nearly $80,000 in Carbon Offsets to the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT) in order to comply with the government’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act.

“This is a direct reduction in funding available for regular operating expenses,” says Board Chair Frank Lento. “That means less money for classrooms and less money to invest in things that might reduce our carbon footprint.”

According to the Centre for Civic Governance in their report titled Catch $25: How Mandatory Carbon Offsets are Undermining Real Emissions Reduction in BC School Districts, “About half of the $4.4 million of public funds that school districts paid PCT in 2010 was used to purchase carbon offsets from private sector corporations… companies [with] combined assets of over $120 billion.”

Lento points out that school buildings represent one of the single largest opportunities for reducing public sector greenhouse gas emissions.  He would like to see government place more emphasis on building lifecycle initiatives.

“For example, if our District had been able to invest that $80,000 in a  solar wall upgrade in one of our schools, this would not only have achieved a reduction in our carbon footprint but also an annual $9,000 in energy savings.”

Cranbrook Trustee Chris Johns agrees and points out that the pending Mount Baker school replacement offers government a golden opportunity to save the District long term operating costs.

“Mount Baker is the largest school in the District. It’s old. It’s got an inefficient HVAC system. It’s only going to keep costing us more money year after year. And that means we’re going to have to keep feeding money into this carbon offset program when our school kids and teachers are being asked to do more with less. It’s ludicrous.”

The SD5 letter to Minister Abbott contains a motion “requesting that government provide school districts with targeted funding for the reduction of carbon offsets and, in consultation with school Boards, make changes to the way carbon offsets are calculated for school districts while ensuring that carbon offsets paid out by school districts are set aside for the sole purpose of upgrading school district facilities to reduce carbon footprints.” A number of recommendations supporting this motion are also included.

A copy of the letter will be available to the public on the SD5 website, www.sd5.bc.ca.

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