Source: Simon Fraser University, Public Affairs and Media Relations
In their paper, B.C.’s Carbon Neutral Public Sector: Too Good to be True? the researchers say the government should focus instead on extending its carbon tax – which currently targets only 75 per cent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions – or disallow those emissions via regulation, as it did in the electricity sector.
Being carbon neutral is to justify one’s own emission by paying someone else to reduce future emissions they may or may not have emitted. The “offset” payment is an investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, capturing emissions, even planting trees – actions they were not otherwise going to make.
“The carbon offset industry claims that these purported emissions reductions are real and verified, but we cannot be certain,” says Jaccard. “Independent researchers examining past and current subsidy programs, which are comparable to offset payments, frequently find that a significant percentage of these are not actually additional.
“Someone is paid for something they would have done anyway – called free-riding – meaning that the offset payment does not cause additional carbon reductions and carbon neutrality is not achieved – although it appears to be.”
Jaccard says B.C. “has some excellent climate policies,” including its carbon tax and its clean electricity policy. However, the carbon tax doesn’t cover one-quarter of the province’s emissions.
“This can lead to perverse outcomes in which provincial ministries, such as education and health, pay the carbon tax and yet must also purchase offsets, sometimes from profitable companies who are not paying emissions taxes,” he explains.
“It’s another reason why the B.C. government should abandon its goal of carbon neutrality and instead focus on extending emissions pricing to the remaining untaxed emissions.”