Carbon offsets program slammed by B.C. Auditor General, Environment minister rejects report’s conclusions but accepts recommendations

Carbon offsets program slammed by B.C. Auditor General, Environment minister rejects report’s conclusions but accepts recommendations by CBC News with files from the CBC’s Stephen Smart and The Canadian Press, March 27, 2013
The biggest concern to Doyle is that tens of millions of dollars that are being collected each year from schools, hospitals and other public sector bodies to buy carbon offsets are not being credibly spent. “In all, 128 public sector organizations provided $18.2 million to the Pacific Carbon Trust to purchase offsets on their behalf,” in 2010, Doyle noted. … Doyle’s office examined two projects which accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the offsets purchased by government to achieve their claim of carbon neutrality: the Darkwoods Forest Carbon project in southeastern B.C. and the Encana Underbalanced Drilling project near Fort Nelson. But he concluded, “this claim of carbon neutrality is not accurate, as neither project provided credible offsets.” In other words, the so-called carbon offsets aren’t really offsetting emissions as they’re supposed to, the report said. Doyle said his main concern with the projects is that they would have happened anyway without the investment from the carbon offset program. “In industry terms, they would be known as ‘free riders’ — receiving revenue ($6 million between the two) for something that would have happened anyway,” he said in the report. “Offsets can only be credible in B.C. if, among other things, the revenue from their sale is the tipping point in moving forward on a project. It must be an incentive, not a subsidy, for the reduction of GHGs.”

Doyle also took particular issue with the government’s Pacific Carbon Trust, which is supposed to administer those offsets on behalf of taxpayers. … He said carbon trust managers broke his confidence and disclosed information about his audit to industry stakeholders — something he said he’s never experienced with any other report. “Of all the reports I have issued, never has one been targeted in such an overt manner by vested interests, nor has an audited organization ever broken my confidence, as did the senior managers at PCT by disclosing confidential information to carbon market developers and brokers,” he wrote. “I cannot sufficiently express my surprise and disappointment that a public sector entity, with a fiduciary duty to the people of British Columbia, chose to expend its time and energy in this manner, rather than addressing the concerns raised in the audit.” The report was supposed to be released Tuesday but was put on hold after the Speaker of the legislature said there was an apparent breach, and the report had been given to unnamed people prematurely. Doyle said Tuesday he’s often shared his reports with government ministries before their official release, adding he’s required to do so under the Auditor General Act. He said he’s also had a long-standing practice of providing briefings to ministers and deputy ministers and representatives of some all-party committees and other MLAs. B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake responded to the report by saying the government accepted Doyle’s recommendations, but rejected his conclusions.

Earlier in the day, Independent MLA Bob Simpson said he’s never believed the Liberal government’s claims on the matter. “The Pacific Carbon Trust and carbon neutral government absolutely has failed. The other aspect of this that really concerns me is that you have a government hiding behind its carbon neutral claim while it allows greenhouse gas emissions from its industrial strategy to skyrocket.Simpson also claimed many of the benefactors of the government’s carbon neutral policies are major donors to the Liberal party. [Emphasis added]

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