Part II : Jesus turned water to wine, but who turned hot air into $$$$$ ?
Before anyone starts screaming at me for what I am about to write, let me say that I am all about saving and preserving the world we live on for as long as we possibly can. If you read anything of what I write, you will know that I advocate for a number of environmental issues. I’m not a scientist,a climatologist, or even a meteorologist. I am, however, a devoted mother of 4 who was raised in what used to be the pristine,”true north – strong and free “. So, by all rights that makes me an environmentalist and activist of sorts, through birth and motherhood.
I used to argue with my father about forestry practices and how those in the industry needed to start looking towards other means of sustaining their livelihoods before every damn tree was cut down – and that was long before the term sustainability came into common language. I questioned the wisdom of the large plumes of emissions erupting from the pulp mill stacks, and the burner at the saw mill. Let’s just say that since he and the rest of my family are forestry workers, we didn’t exactly see eye to eye on these issues. He saw men out of work, I saw forests without trees. I still do, and I suspect as hard as it is for him to admit it, now he does as well.
One would think it should be common sense at this point in our development as a supposedly enlightened society, to do as little damage and leave as little impact as we can while we go about the business of actually doing business, and living life. Turn off the lights. Walk when you can, take the bus, use reuseable bags, and conserve our precious water supplies. You know what I mean, I don’t need to spell it out.
All of this is why I really have a hard time with this whole business of carbon credits, carbon offsets and the regulations that the provincial government has imposed on all of the public sector who were supposedly going to be carbon neutral by 2010. To me, it really appears to be a government mandated climate scam on another level, and I’m going to tell you why I think so.
Well, it’s 2010 now, and is the public sector in BC carbon neutral? I think not. What’s that? You don’t have a clue what carbon neutral even is? Carbon credits and offsets are a foreign language to you ? Don’t feel so bad, because you are not alone.
The fact is that far too many British Columbians haven’t a clue what all of this means, and I suspect that is just fine with Gordon Campbell and the Liberals, because as long as you don’t understand the theory behind it and where all the money goes, no one will ask any questions. Make it as confusing as hell and pretty soon the average Joe or Jill has a headache and goes to bed, still clueless as to how it all works.
To be honest, I’ve been in the same boat and for the most part, ignored the entire carbon credit/offset/neutral business altogether – until one company name started popping up all over the place last year : Offsetters Clean Technology.
But first, before I get into how James Tansey has turned hot air into $$$$, let’s go back… wayyy back, to 2007 or thereabouts, when” it” all started : “it”, meaning Gordon Campbell’s Green Dream, of course.
The world was deep in the alarmist reactionary mode to the horrific threat of global warming and as a result,politicians and environmentalists everywhere were heeding the call to action. The provincial government, under the guidance of Gordon Campbell, was no different. Long story short, the premiers Green Dream of glory resulted in a carbon tax and the allotment of $24 million over 4 years to the creation of a new crown corporation known as the Pacific Carbon Trust.
What does this Pacific Carbon Trust do? The website says this:
Credible offsets. A cleaner environment. A vibrant low-carbon economy.
We need to act on many fronts to address climate change. Pacific Carbon Trust offers an important part of the solution. We are a Crown corporation of the Government of BC, created to deliver quality made-in-BC greenhouse gas offsets to help clients reduce their carbon footprint and drive the growth of BC’s low-carbon economy.
Together with our partners and clients, we are creating a cleaner environment and a modern B.C. economy.
What We Do
We offer quality carbon offsets, measured as one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent (CO2e) that is reduced or removed from the atmosphere as a result of emission-reducing (offset) activities.
For example, if a business reduces emissions by 10,000 tonnes of CO2e through a qualifying energy efficiency initiative, it can sell those emissions savings or offsets to us. We will in turn offer a portfolio of offsets to clients to counter their emissions.
What is a carbon offset?
A carbon offset represents a reduction or sequestration of greenhouse gas emissions generated by activities, such as improved energy efficiency, that can be used to balance the emissions from another source, such as a plane trip.
To ensure the offsets we offer provide a true additional benefit, the carbon savings must be verified by an objective third party, and our purchases must support offset projects that otherwise would not have been viable. These and other requirements are outlined in the Ministry of Environment’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act and Emission Offsets Regulation.
Whoooa Nellie… sounds like an entirely different language, no? Well, the good people at the Pacific Carbon Trust have been so helpful as to provide an entire section of FAQ to help us out. You can take a look at it yourself at this link: http://www.pacificcarbontrust.com/FAQs/tabid/61/Default.aspx , and I urge you to do so, because it will assist you in understanding why I question all of this, and perhaps why you should think a little more about it as well. Especially since under the Climate Change and offsets section, it specifically refers to global warming ( they define global warming as climate change) as the reason behind all of this.
The creation of the carbon tax and the act and ensuing regulations governing climate protocols in British Columbia meant one thing: an entirely new industry was born in British Columbia, one that centered all around the buying and selling, creation and disbursement of carbon offsets, which in turn leads to the carbon credit.
This is where James Tansey and Offsetters Clean Technology comes in. The first time I really recall hearing this company name was when it was announced that the 2010 Olympics were going to be the greenest games on the planet. VANOC made an announcement that a deal had been reached with Offsetters to become the official carbon offsetter of the Olympic Games- to the tune of approximately $5 million. Quite the deal if you ask me.
Shortly thereafter, finance minister Colin Hansen announced that the Pacific Carbon Trust had made a deal to purchase over 300,000 emission offsets from – you guessed it – Offsetters clean technology.
And the rest is history…
Some of you might be sleeping by now, some of you might be freaking out and wondering how it is that I could question such an amazing innovation like carbon offsets. After all, what could be wrong about offsetting harmful emissions, right?
The truth is,after reading the websites of both Pacific Carbon Trust( remember, this is a crown corporation and your tax dollars at work here) and Offsetters- a private and profitable business, I only have more doubt as to the effectiveness of all of it.
First of all, with regards to the crown corporation, Pacific Carbon Trust, who is in charge of monitoring all of this? Who checks if the offset projects truly are what they claim to be ? Who is verifying the numbers ?
As it happens, there is a FAQ section on the government site that attempts to address these questions, but look at the answer it gives for this question:
8. Who are validation and verification bodies?
Validation bodies review project plans and issue assurance statements on the basis of their findings. The validation of a project plan includes an assessment of the project’s additionality, selection of sources, sinks, reservoirs, and the protocol selected by the proponent.
Verification bodies assess project reports and issue assurance statements on the basis of their findings. The verification of project reports include an assessment of the project’s greenhouse gas reduction, data collection, monitoring, and calculations.
Initially a team which includes a person authorized to act as an auditor of a company and at least one qualified professional (as defined in the regulation) will be able to act as a validation or verification body. As of July 1, 2010 validation and verification bodies will need to be accredited, in accordance with ISO 14065, by a member of the International Accreditation Forum to use ISO 14064-3.
Soooo… I still have no clue WHO the people are that validate and verify the projects, offsets and numbers, and according to this, prior to July 1st of this year, these independent ” bodies” did not even have to be accredited ! What? It boggles the mind that there are ‘bodies’ out there that may or may not be qualified to even perform this function- because they have not been accredited- to make any kind of assessment. But of course, we still don’t even know who these people are,where they came from and what their qualifications are.
It gets even better. Try and give this a try:
How do I quantify my proposed offset project?
Proponents are encouraged to select a recognized protocol (for example, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has numerous expert and publicly reviewed methodologies) and adapt, as necessary, to the B.C. context.
Over time, an optional list of approved protocols will be developed and made available to project proponents.
In addition, the Director of the Climate Change Branch of the Ministry of Environment has the authority to designate mandatory protocols. These protocols may relate to any of the following:
- Selection of sources, sinks, or reservoirs.
- Baseline scenarios.
- Quantification of Greenhouse Gas Reductions.
Monitoring Greenhouse Gas sources, sinks, and reservoirs
Encouraged? Proponents are ‘encouraged’ to select a recognized protocol? Shouldn’t a crown corporation be demanding it as a requirement? how about setting a standard so we know tax dollars aren’t being wasted here.
I could go on, but you get the point. The science is still relatively new, and as it turns out, highly questionable at best, in my opinion. After doing a bit more research, it appears that I am far from being the only one questioning the value of the entire carbon offset industry.
Critics worldwide have long deemed carbon offsets as a way for the guilty to pay for their sins, rather than changing their behavior. ” Hey, I’m still going to fly 20 times a year, but I’ll by some offsets and it’s ok!! ) In BC, it seems we still have no cut and dry standard of verifying and measuring the offsets absolutely. It is often said that companies will get ” independent verification” as to appear credible and avoid the appearance of fraud, but as it clearly spelled on the BC government site, those mysterious verification and validation bodies have been operating with accreditation for the last two years!! Who the hell knows what has been going on over there and where this taxpayer-funded money has been going.
There are more controversies with the entire carbon offset industry, and although I generally refrain from using Wikipedia as a source, it sums up all those controversies in one location. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset
The most interesting source of information that takes a hard look at some of the key people in charge of the Pacific Carbon Trust and those that comprise the BC Green Energy AdvisoryTask Force was located on the Save our Rivers website. I would consider it to be a damning report that shows the potential conflicts and highly questionable business relationships of those deemed with advising and overseeing the direction our government takes at this crucial juncture in our provinces history. Oddly enough, a familiar name appears even here, by the appearance of Chris Trumpy….. 🙂 ( that guy really gets around)
Should those parties with an outside and vested interest that may be profit or politically motivated, be charged with advising on allegedly ‘clean’ energy issues? Read this link, and decide for yourself. http://saveourrivers.ca/action/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/TaskForce-Group2-Backgrounder-Dec16-09.pdf
Clearly, the premiers Green Dream and lofty goals of a carbon neutral public sector are still just that – a dream. Even more questionable, is the requirement for school districts to have to adhere to his protocols by purchasing – you guessed it- carbon offsets to meet the guidelines. Don’t meet the target and the district has to pay a penalty on top of it.
Now again, I’m just a concerned mother and citizen of this province, but considering the school system has been underfunded and shortchanged for so long that a goof majority of students learn in cold, damp drafty old portables that cost a small fortune to even try and heat, wouldn’t it make more sense to exempt the schools from this requirement ? Take a look at this excerpt from an article that ran in the TRicity News – and keep in mind this was written last year :
Few British Columbians are against tackling climate change.
But making students lab rats in an experiment to make the province a leader in the exchange of carbon credits is not the way to do it.
Starting next year, school districts will be expected to calculate and pay for carbon emissions when there’s no money in the pot to pay for teachers.
It’s an added financial burden for districts already caught in a cash crunch.
The Surrey School District is already facing a $9.5-million shortfall due to a reduction in revenues and increased costs.
The carbon emission plan imposed by the province will add nearly $2 million in expenses annually to Surrey’s bottom line – the equivalent of the annual salaries for 28 full-time teachers.
First, districts have to buy and use an expensive, time-consuming calculator – from the province, which developed it – to figure out how many tonnes of carbon emissions they create in heating and lighting schools, then they’ll pay carbon offsets to industry through a carbon exchange called the Pacific Carbon Trust. This Crown corporation will then use the funds to reward industries that cut back on their carbon emissions.
But should schools be subsidizing industry? And is this the right time to do it?
True, schools that cut energy and electricity consumption will save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
But exactly how can they afford to do that without dedicated funds? There was the annual facilities grant but that was cut and what reserves are left are being used for basic maintenance.
You would think B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid would be sympathetic. But, no, she’s sticking to her guns on the 2010 deadline and says no extra money is available for the program.
I can’t say it any better than that.
I agree, few people in this province will deny the need for industry and commercial business to cut harmful emissions. But after a closer examination of the people and the projects initiated by our premier, it’s clear things are not what they appear to be. There are no strict guidelines and far too many loose ends to ensure that this tax money it being well spent, and in the end, how much has any of it impacted how the majority of industry in BC does business?
It might make good copy, and even better PR for the companies touting their ‘carbon neutrality’, but I’m guessing the only thing Gordon Campbell’s Green Dream has done, is lined the pockets of more than a few industrious businessmen in BC – and no one has been the wiser. Sure, buying some carbon offsets might contribute to some great new clean energy or some amazing new industrial mechanism that isn’t firing out some black toxic smoke, but remember this.
Those same carbon offsets are doing nothing to stop the current and ongoing, real-life every day emissions that are happening right now as we speak. On that one point alone, I question all of it. This program is doing nothing to stop, or even really change the way big, powerful polluters are doing business at this very second.
But hey, at least some CEO can say: ” We manage to minimize our tremendous environmental damage by purchasing carbon offsets….” Maybe, just maybe he or she really believes it’s doing some good, but I doubt it. More likely they view offsets as a free pass to commit environmental treachery, sanctioned by the government.
I say, time to call for full and comprehensive, PUBLIC review of all the entire program to see if it has come close to living up to the dream- Campbell’s Green Dream.
My kids, and yours, depend on it.