Town aims to become carbon neutral

Although admittedly unlikely in success, the Town of Lake Cowichan has committed itself to becoming carbon neutral on a corporate level by 2012.

  • Jul. 25, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Although admittedly unlikely in success, the Town of Lake Cowichan has committed itself to becoming carbon neutral on a corporate level by 2012.

“Next year, we will be required to be carbon neutral. We can do so by being carbon neutral, which is unlikely, or by paying into a fund,” town planner James van Hemert told the town’s elected officials, during a Tuesday, July 19, committee meeting.

The corporate level includes all town owned facilities, while a community level would include residential properties and citizens’ transportation.

Leading by example, the corporate level will be tackled first.

In a presentation van Hemert prepared for council, he took note of a 2007 report that cites the town releasing 205 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions, which they will have to offset, either through actually offsetting them or paying into a fund.

The total cost of paying into a fund would be $5,125.

“It will be necessary to do another inventory to see where we’re at,” van Hemert said, in that the 2007 carbon audit report may no longer be accurate.

The top five sources of emissions, according to the 2007 corporate inventory, were as follows, in decreasing order of tonnes of carbon dioxide;

1) Cowichan Lake Education Centre propane, at 50.76

2) Firehall propane (28.96)

3) Garbage truck diesel (8.61)

4) Backhoe diesel (8.61)

5) #14-GMC pickup gasoline (8.23)

The pickup truck has already been relocated to the Cowichan Lake Education Centre, where it now serves a smaller role, having replaced an even older less fuel efficient vehicle.

“As we get rid of stuff, it gets shuffled down,” the town’s chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez Said.

A smaller vehicle has replaced the truck’s former, more commonly-used position as the building inspector’s vehicle.

An anti-idling policy is also now in effect, which will tackle community emissions.

“There are some actions already, but they could be expanded,” van Hemert said.

“I’m not saying this is easy, but we are obligated to do something.”

This obligation comes through the town’s signing of British Columbia’s Climate Action Charter.

The town planner presented council with two recommendations to tackle their carbon emissions.

1) That the Town of Lake Cowichan seek funding to prepare a Local Action Plan.

Although corporate emissions can be tackled in-house, van Hemert suggested that outside consultants may be required in order to draft ways of cutting back on community output.

Particularly, since as councillor Tim McGonigle pointed out, about 80 per cent of emissions were a result of transportation.

“Without altering transportation, you will be purchasing offsets,” he said.

Input from the public will be sought to establish the structure to oversee the proposed Local Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gasses within the town.

2) That the Town of Lake Cowichan purchase either SMARTTool or Climate Smart to calculate and monitor corporate emissions.

This is software that helps communities inventory their corporate emissions.