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City changes targets after failing to meet greenhouse gas targets

Okanagan Car Share Co-op is just one of many measures the City of Kelowna has undertaken to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets.
June 02, 2015 - 6:02 PM

KELOWNA - Despite the many efforts made by the city to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions and those of its citizens, Kelowna is a long way off the target it set for itself in 2007.

That’s when Kelowna signed on to the B.C. Climate Action Charter and pledged by 2017 to reduce greenhouse gases caused by city operations by 22 per cent from 2007 levels. Eight years later, emissions are down by just one per cent.

Two years out from the target date, the city is acknowledging its earlier pledge to be “overly ambitious” and is hiring an energy specialist to set more realistic targets for corporate operations. It doesn’t hurt that the charter is not legally binding.

“I would think that to get down to 22 per cent, the cost would be prohibitively high and I think rate payers would probably object,” said Joel Shaw, infrastructure planning manager for the city.

“I wouldn’t say we abandoned our target. In fact, the community has grown by 12 per cent since 2007, so given all the services we provide, that we’ve been able to hold the line is in itself a good news story.”

Shaw is still hoping to see a reduction of between three to five per cent by 2017.

As part of the action charter, signatory communities also pledged to become carbon neutral in their operations, but Shaw said the province quickly realized the only way to meet that goal was for municipalities to use taxpayer’s money to buy carbon offsets.

“That wasn’t desireable so they changed it to say as long as we’re making progress toward carbon neutrality, then we are in line with the agreement,” he added.

There’s no lack of measures the city has taken to reduce corporate operations emissions and a clear incentive to do it. By adhering to reporting requirements, Kelowna and other municipalities are eligible to receive a refund of all the carbon they pay on energy purchases. The city is claiming $235,000 for 2014.

Uncertainty also prevails on the community side of the climate action charter where the overall target for Kelowna was to reduce greenhouse gases by 33 per cent by 2020. The majority of all greenhouse gases are created by driving and the city has pledged to do what it can to get locals to drive less.

Sustainabiilty coordinator Traci Guidi said the city’s myriad efforts to get drivers out of their cars have produced a reduction of about two per cent, although that’s measured against 2010 data. The city has been waiting for 2012 emissions data from the province and expects it by the end of June.

“We definitely haven’t abandoned our efforts. We have done things where it made financial sense to do so,” Guidi said. “We’re not going to get (the reduction) from one magic spot.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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