With Golden’s environmental commitments drawing debate in the council chambers recently, The Community Energy Association was in town for an educational workshop at Town Hall.
“We are a not-for-profit, and we focus on research and education. We are not activists,” said Dale Littlejohn, executive director of the Community Energy Association.
As signatories to the BC Climate Action Charter, Golden is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2012, and the Community Energy Association helps communities achieve this by doing energy and emissions plans (which they have done for more than 30 communities).
Littlejohn explained that being carbon neutral doesn’t mean that you eliminate your emissions. It means that you reduce as much as possible, and take responsibility for the rest by purchasing carbon offsets.
As municipalities invest in environmentally friendly infrastructure and equipment, their need to purchase offsets goes down, but that takes time.
In the meantime, the cost of these offsets is counterbalanced by the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP) rebates the Town receives, which exceeds the amount paid for offsets.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” said Littlejohn.
Offsets are created by companies and organizations undertaking emission reducing projects, such as the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s composting program. Selling offsets, however, does not pay for these projects, they simply make them a little more financially viable.
“If a project is covered 10 per cent by carbon offset sales, they’re doing well,” said Littlejohn.
Golden has already taken great strides to reduce its emissions, and has already made changes in all its municipal buildings. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Golden, however, is on-road transportation at 79 per cent. (This figure accounts for the entire community, not just municipal operations).
According to Littlejohn, Golden has already “picked all the low hanging fruit,” and future efforts to reduce emissions will take a bit longer, and require more investment.
The remaining CARIP rebates (the amount that hasn’t gone to purchase carbon offsets), must be used on emissions reducing projects.
Littlejohn was also in council chambers for a closed meeting to discuss policy options with council and staff.