B.C. citizens will get to buy carbon credits

how to get carbon credit

VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is developing a system to enable individual British Columbians to buy carbon credits from the province's "green" industries or public-service organizations to offset the greenhouse gases generated in their everyday lives, says Premier Gordon Campbell.

VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is developing a system to enable individual British Columbians to buy carbon credits from the province's "green" industries or public-service organizations to offset the greenhouse gases generated in their everyday lives, says Premier Gordon Campbell.

The initiative, which would be a first in Canada, is part of the government's attempts to join California in fighting global warming by developing a regional carbon-trading registry that aims to have B.C. reduce its green-house gas emissions to 33 per cent of today's levels by 2020.

A personal carbon-credit-trading plan is Campbell's attempt to empower individual citizens to fight climate change by rewarding homegrown, green initiatives.

In an interview, Campbell said the system is being developed within the new carbon-trading registry B.C. is setting up with five western U.S. states, led by California, whose governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will arrive in Vancouver Thursday to speak at the Pacific Economic Summit.

Campbell was once lukewarm on the Kyoto anti-global-warming accord, but in the last few months, he has signalled that he hopes to lead Canadian provinces in fighting climate change. He said the new system will allow British Columbians to offset personal carbon-generating activities such as air travel.

"This will be done because people want to do it," said Campbell. "Our job is to give them the vehicle to arrive at the destination. that's what carbon credits will do."

Now, people can buy carbon credits from a variety of organizations offering green-friendly projects such as tree-planting or renewable energy projects. Such purchases often take place over the Internet and involve projects outside of Canada.

But under B.C.'s plan -- which Campbell acknowledges is still in a preliminary stage and won't be available until next year at the earliest -- the Liberal government hopes people would be able to spend those dollars within their own province. The carbon emissions of the projects they buy into, said Campbell, would be audited under the carbon-trading registry that is being created.

"Today they can do it [buy carbon credits] in Massachusetts, or Oregon," said Campbell. "We're in the midst of setting something up so they can do it for British Columbia if they want to do it here."

"They can pick the projects they think will work best for them, that they are most enamoured with," he added.

"You may be investing in the bicycle trust, [that's] doing bicycle networks in our communities all over the province. You may be able to do it on a major forestry tree planting. You might be able to do it with the Urban Forest Foundation that's going to plant trees all over our communities. You might be able to invest in the community garden foundation."

"Those are just ideas," said Campbell. "I'm not saying that's all going to be there. But those are all different options that

people could have."

But as the B.C. government moves further into its climate change agenda, questions are arising about the scope of the government's carbon registry.

What will be the total size of the carbon market? Will individuals who buy carbon credits be given tax relief for doing so? Will the government be setting up a fund that allows the public to buy into green projects? Will companies or organizations that sell carbon credits need to pay taxes on their new revenue windfalls created from selling their carbon offsets to individuals or companies?

"This is policy on the fly," said Shane Simpson, the New Democratic Party's critic on the government's climate change agenda. "How is this going to work? What is it going to do to the budget?"

Campbell himself said the government has not gotten down to the fine details of how carbon trading will affect provincial tax policy. But there will be impacts.

The premier said forest companies, for example, "may be able to generate significant revenues out of proper management of the forest," but added it's still too early to gauge the potential impact on government tax revenues or taxation policy.

"I haven't got there," he said. "The tax regime is a major issue. And the Ministry of Finance is developing various options for us on that."

Finance Minister Carole Taylor agreed the government's climate-change initiatives could have consequence for how the province does its books. But she said the implications may only start to be seen by the next budget.

The government's climate-change initiative is generating intense debate within both business circles and environmental groups. All are waiting for the government to set out its greenhouse gas emission targets -- and penalties -- that are essential to setting up a carbon-trading system.

A carbon-trading market would function only if greenhouse-gas-emitting entities face fines that entice them to buy less-expensive carbon credits from green companies to avoid the financial penalties.

"As described, I believe it would be a first in Canada," Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council, said of carbon-trading for individuals.

"The key with any kind of carbon trading system is to cap greenhouse-gas emissions -- without the cap, there's no incentive to trade and no value/cost to any given quantity of emissions."

The Sierra club called the government's backing of a voluntary carbon-tax trading for individuals a potentially positive step.

But it warned that such a system would never be enough to take the place of the deep shifts in transportation policy, environmental policy and taxing of polluters that will be essential for the government to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

"It's interesting that government is looking for innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Lisa Matthaus, with the Sierra Club.

"However, voluntary measures alone are not going to take us very far down that road. The kind of greenhouse gas cuts Campbell has suggested require some fairly far-reaching change in our behaviour and energy consumption."


© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Source: www.canada.com

Category: Credit

Similar articles: