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Province open to changing carbon offset program

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – BC’s environment minister has suddenly come out saying he’s open to changes around carbon offsets that charge millions of dollars to schools, hospitals, and other public sector groups.

Critics have long called the practice a huge government cash grab and Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants to see the Pacific Carbon Trust scrapped altogether.

“It takes money out of classrooms and emergency rooms and puts it into the hands of some of the biggest corporations in BC,” he says. “Frankly, it should be done away with entirely.”

Twenty-five dollars per tonne is charged for carbon emissions, and the government hasn’t really told us where that money is going or why.

Now, in a release, the Environment Ministry says BC was creating a new market and could only estimate what the cost of offsets would be, and that it was thought international carbon markets would be better developed by now.

The province claims millions has gone back into the public sector, but it is open to contributing more.  Today, it’s defending the PCT.

“I want to make it clear that our government remains committed to the policy of carbon neutrality,” says Environment Minister Terry Lake.

“This government’s leadership on carbon neutrality drives down greenhouse gas emissions, reduces energy costs, and produces savings public sector organizations can reinvest in energy saving projects. Those projects, in turn, create jobs in BC’s clean-energy sector,” he continues.

“To date, PCT hasn’t released that information because it was important to protect this commercial information as it helps the Crown negotiate better prices, and it assists offset developers secure better prices when they sell on international markets,” he adds.

Lake says now that the government is in its third year of carbon trading, it’s safer to release detailed information on carbon offsets.

Bateman believes the sudden openness is all ahead of an auditor general report that likely won’t be pretty.

The options the BC government will consider are:

* Reinvest the money into other programs specific to public sector organizations;

* Lower the cost charged to public sector organizations; or,

* Hold the retained surplus in the government’s accounts as part of balancing the budget.