Carbon offsets start to add up in Chilliwack

Pacific Carbon Trust receives tens of thousands of dollars from Chilliwack's public sector.

Chilliwack’s public sector has spent tens of thousands of dollars on carbon offsets last year, according to the latest government reports.

This is part of the government’s goal to be completely carbon neutral, the first government to do so in North America.

Since 2010, B.C.’s public sector institutions have had to calculate how much CO2 they emit from operating buildings, vehicles, and purchasing supplies. They then pay approximately $24 per tonne of emissions to Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT), a Crown corporation responsible for distributing the funds to environmental projects.

Chilliwack’s school district, hospital, and the University of the Fraser Valley are just some of the agencies offsetting their carbon emissions.

The Chilliwack school district spent $50,900 this year to offset 2,036 tonnes of CO2 emissions, primarily from its buildings (55 per cent), fleet (39 per cent), and paper supplies (six per cent).

To reduce its carbon footprint in the last couple of years, the district has installed new boilers, replaced three-quarters of its portable furnaces to higher efficiency models, upgraded some gas-powered air conditioning systems to ones powered mostly by electricity, switched most lighting fixtures to high efficiency ones, and installed some motion detectors to automatically switch off lights.

The district has also engaged student “green teams” to encourage conservation of resources and conducts environmental trainings for staff.

Despite these changes, the Chilliwack school district’s carbon footprint grew 24 per cent from last year. Facilities manager Brent Neufeld said this was due to the larger square footage of the new Yarrow and Rosedale elementary schools, as well as three new portable classrooms.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health had a slight decrease in emissions from the year before, and spent a total of $1,105,283 to offset 41,340 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The Chilliwack hospital, health centre and seniors’ clinic Parkholm Place altogether cost Fraser Health $80,892 to offset 2,889 tonnes of CO2 emissions resulting from its buildings.

The University of the Fraser Valley has reduced its carbon footprint by five per cent since 2009. It purchased $81,725 in offsets this year, a marginal increase from the previous year. Nearly all of its 3,270 tonnes of CO2 emissions were from buildings.

UFV’s new Canada Education Park site, opened in 2012, includes a wealth of environmentally-conscious features, and the university expects that the facility will reduce energy consumption by 60 per cent from the former Chilliwack North campus. Other buildings have also received boiler and lighting upgrades.

Other agencies that offset carbon emissions in Chilliwack include B.C. Housing, B.C. Hydro and Power Authority, B.C. Transit, and all government ministries.

Overall, B.C.’s public sector paid $18,807,450 to PCT to offset 752,298 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2012.

Local agencies can apply to PCT for funding for environmental projects. Last year, the Chilliwack school district received $110,000 from the fund to upgrade the boiler at Cultus Lake elementary to a more eco-friendly model.

The Pacific Carbon Trust came under scrutiny in March when auditor general John Doyle issued a report accusing the organization of funding projects that do not credibly reduce greenhouse gases. Doyle went on to state that the B.C. government’s claim of carbon neutrality is inaccurate. Although the government rejected this conclusion, it accepted Doyle’s recommendations for improvement.