Cowichan News Leader

Cowichan's Community Carbon Marketplace a national pilot keeping eco-bucks at home

Cowichan Energy Alternatives Brian Roberts, left, and Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, right, are excited about the Community Carbon Marketplace. Here, they flank MLA Bill Routley at the 2011 opening of the Cowichan bio-diesel plant. - Andrew Leong/file
Cowichan Energy Alternatives Brian Roberts, left, and Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, right, are excited about the Community Carbon Marketplace. Here, they flank MLA Bill Routley at the 2011 opening of the Cowichan bio-diesel plant.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Busting carbon by fueling green projects may make Cowichan a national eco-pioneer.

A pilot project between Cowichan Energy Alternatives and Duncan council could see municipalities, government ministries, and businesses across Canada buy carbon credits generated by local projects spanning community gardens and tree planting, to parks, recycling drives and solar energy.

The catalyst is CEA's carbon assessments which measure — to provincial and international standards — hwo much the valley's various green projects reduce global-warming carbon.

Those offsets can then be sold, on the fledgling Community Carbon Marketplace, to cities such as Duncan that signed B.C.'s Climate Action Charter toward carbon neutrality by year's end.

"The whole objective is to get small organizations a whole new source of revenue," said CEA's Brian Roberts.

He likened the Community Carbon Marketplace to a green-projects Craig's List where cities and others can buy carbon credits.

"It's (deciding) 'Which project do I want to support?'  then buying credits from them. We have the potential to do really great things here with this carbon trading system."

Roberts' plan helps locals measure and market carbon offsets to local governments, which are poised to pay into B.C.'s Pacific Carbon Trust in 2013. Since 2010, that trust has been fluffed by public sectors spanning school boards, VIU, hospitals, and many other entities.

"It's supposed to work like tax shifting by putting costs on bad (carbon-rich) activities, helping create renewable energies, and reducing dependence on (fossil fuels)."

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent had figured city taxpayers would drop $1,400 a year into the trust — dough he'd rather feed into local green initiatives. Now, the city has that option, thanks to five projects whose carbon footprint is being CEA-audited.

In early December, council will pick from those five to buy carbon credits, and fulfill its 2012 carbon commitment. Credits from qualified but unselected projects will still be eligible for purchase by other buyers after the carbon marketplace's launch in January.

Kent was stoked about keeping Duncan's carbon cash here while reducing energy use and greenhouse gases.

"We felt we needed an option to invest in local solutions."

Roberts noted, "Cities can fund projects already generating carbon offsets, or start new projects and direct community projects toward carbon neutrality."

Home-grown carbon-selling by the CEA's marketplace could ripple worldwide, Kent indicated.

"I hope ultimately it can be duplicated across B.C and across North America and worldwide — it's people investing in projects to reduce impacts in their own communities."

And compared to the complex carbon trust, the Cowichan's marketplace pilot made sense to Kent.

"This is a way we can meet our (charter) objectives, and we can do it as a community trading system."

Roberts explained money in the Pacific trust wasn't accessible to smaller community groups.

"The CEA's been studying the provincial guidelines, and got our certification to do carbon accounting. We can do the assessments at a faction of the cost of a big engineering or accounting firm."

Then CEA created the marketplace to help non-profits — Cowichan Green Communities, Cowichan Recyclists, and others —  cut carbon while making money.

He's also pitched the carbon marketplace to North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, and regional environment manager Kate Miller.

"They really get it. The timing is perfect. Communities are committed to being carbon neutral, but didn't have the vehicle to do that."

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