The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project is one of the offsets that Cumberland council is interested in supporting. Screenshot, Offsetters video

The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project is one of the offsets that Cumberland council is interested in supporting. Screenshot, Offsetters video

Cumberland weighs its carbon offset options

Aim of the offsets is for local governments to make up for carbon footprint

The Village of Cumberland has prioritized its carbon offset projects.

At a meeting earlier in May, council members voted to devote the Village’s offsets to a collection of projects – the Synergy Portfolio –with the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project as a back-up choice should the first choice no longer be available.

The local government, like others, purchases carbon offsets for specific projects or funds with the aim of promoting environmental protection, conservation or restoration. The idea is to offset their carbon footprint.

“In order to be carbon neutral, council would need to purchase carbon offsets,” chief financial officer Michelle Mason told council.

The Province has changed the reporting tool for the program, leaving some uncertainty, at least as of the time of the meeting.

“We don’t actually know what the carbon offsets are yet,” Mason added.

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In her report to council, she notes there is $7,500 budgeted for the offsets, which should be sufficient based on previous years. Cumberland is a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter and qualifies for a refund on carbon taxes paid through the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP).

The report outlines the most viable options, with an aim to have the Village submit its plans, including its progress toward meeting its climate action goals, to the Province on or before June 1. The item is also on the agenda for the May 25 meeting. (Note: This story went to press before the meeting.) The offsets according to the report cost between $20 and $30 per tonne.

The Synergy Portfolio is a collection of carbon offset projects from B.C. and Africa aiming to benefit the climate and local communities. The projects include a forest land project on Quadra Island, an efficient wood stove project in Uganda and the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project itself. Also a separate option, this project on the north and central coast and Haida Gwaii protects forest land previously identified for commercial logging. The Quadra portion has been an offset project on its own but was now only available as part of the portfolio.

Other offset options include the General Portfolio, which has a farm and a forest project in B.C. along with international projects, and the Gold Standard Portfolio, comprised of three international projects with social and environmental benefits. Coun. Sean Sullivan had expressed a wish to support Community Carbon Marketplace, with projects on the Island but none currently available in the Comox Valley.

Coun. Vickey Brown was curious about why the community could not support something close to home, asking, “Every time we do this, I think, ‘Why can’t we buy our own forest?” She said it is being considered for offsets but there are not currently enough trees or land to qualify. She also wondered whether owning the land might affect eligibility to claim the offsets.

By the end of the discussion, members of council wanted to direct the offset funds to Synergy, with Great Bear on its own as the second choice.

“I supported the Synergy Portfolio. I thought it made perfect sense for us. It covered many of the things that we were supporting,” Mayor Leslie Baird.

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