Okanagan Skaha School District hopes to recoup carbon offset payments

School districts will now be able to apply to what is expected to be a $5 million capital fund

Some of the roughly $45,000 that the Okanagan Skaha School District spends annually to purchase carbon credits to meet its government-mandated goal of carbon neutrality may be recycled right back to local schools.

School districts will now be able to apply to what is expected to be a $5 million capital fund, made up of their carbon offset payments, which will then be handed back for energy-efficiency projects. The B.C. Ministry of Education made the announcement earlier this month and said feedback from the public sector helped prompt the change.

“It’s an example of the advocacy this board has done and been successful at,” SD 67 secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden told the school board at last week’s meeting.

He explained, however, that the funds will be doled out by a provincial advisory committee to whichever projects it deems worthy, so there’s no guarantee that local carbon dollars will return here.

Board chair Ginny Manning was pleased to learn that schools’ carbon bucks will at least stay within the education system.

“The biggest concern we had is it was being paid out to some big corporations,” Manning said after the meeting.

B.C.’s public sector officially became carbon neutral in 2010, which applied across all operations, from schools to ministerial offices. If energy-efficiencies can’t be found to meet that goal, organizations must then buy carbon offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust, a Crown corporation.

However, some of the projects in which the trust invested, including drilling technology improvements for energy giant Encana and high-efficiency heating systems at a high-end Whistler hotel, raised concerns. Local school trustees then joined their counterparts around the province in calling for their trust contributions to be returned to the education system.