A provincial NDP government would kill Pacific Carbon Trust

The Pacific Carbon Trust would be scrapped if the NDP forms B.C.’s next government, leader Adrian Dix said Monday as he unveiled the party’s environmental platform.

The Climate Action Secretariat would take over from the trust, with carbon-tax revenues used to fund transit and other green projects, he said. Levies paid by hospitals, Crown corporations and post-secondary schools would fund energy-efficiency upgrades for those institutions.

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“Since 2008, our public institutions have been paying tens of millions of dollars in levies to the Pacific Carbon Trust,” Dix said. “Instead of using those funds to invest in energy-efficiency initiatives in schools and hospitals, the bulk of the money has been gifted to profitable corporations.”

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The Pacific Carbon Trust was formed in 2008 to help reduce carbon emissions. Businesses and institutions pay $25 a tonne to the trust for emissions and the trust then buys carbon offsets. However, that meant cash-strapped schools and hospitals had to come up with funds that often then went to for-profit companies offering offsets. Auditor general John Doyle recently found the trust was investing in projects that would have gone ahead anyway.

Environment critic Rob Fleming, who is seeking re-election in Victoria-Swan Lake, said the aim is to make the fund work better.

“It will enable us to expand transit service. Literally more buses on the road. The big flaw is that since 2008, the Liberals haven’t invested a dime into public-transit service.”

But Environment Minister Terry Lake said Dix apparently doesn’t understand the concept of carbon neutrality.

“Turning it over to the Climate Action Secretariat doesn’t change anything and we’ve made some really good improvements, so I’m not sure how he intends to maintain carbon neutrality in the public sector, or maybe he doesn’t think that’s important,” he said.

The Liberals invested $75 million in making public buildings more energy efficient, saving institutions millions of dollars in energy costs, and another $5 million has gone into the carbon-neutral capital program for school districts for energy-efficiency projects that lower their carbon emissions, Lake said.

The NDP also pledged to ban cosmetic pesticides as part of its environmental platform. But a sparse announcement that the NDP will protect endangered species and habitats and reinvest in B.C.'s parks system, with few specifics, drew criticism from Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “The NDP’s environment platform is like a blurry moving sasquatch video in regards to potential old-growth forest protections and park creations,” he said. “You can’t discern if it’s real and significant or if it’s just Dix in a fake gorilla costume.”

The cost of the NDP’s environmental commitments is estimated at $36 million in 2013-14, $47 million in 2014-15 and $60 million in 2015-16.

The NDP also announced its agriculture platform, including a program to promote local food in hospitals and resurrection of a cancelled food-marketing program called Buy B.C.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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