The 180 municipalities signed on can achieve carbon neutrality by reducing emissions, purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions or by developing projects to offset emissions. The original deadline was 2012, but has been extended to 2013, as long as progress towards carbon neutrality is demonstrated.

 In the recently approved Official Community Plan, a key objective is to reduce the entire city’s GHG emissions from 2007 levels by one per cent by 2020, 6.5 per cent by 2025 and 12 per cent by 2030. Fort St. John’s community energy manager Marty Paradine explains that the first step is to make reductions in municipal operations, before community projects and purchasing carbon offsets.

“The first thing you would do as a local government is reduce emissions by acting directly in our corporate operations, so we deal with our vehicles, our buildings, things like that.”

 A team of city staff, called Shift into Neutral or SiN, has recommended the city aim for a 14 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by the end of 2014, 21 per cent by 2017, 33 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by the end of 2050. Paradine believes these targets, which are based on two per cent annual growth, are “significant, but achievable nonetheless.” 

Some of the emissions reduction opportunities the SiN team has prioritized include using alternative fuel for the City’s fleet, retrofitting municipal buildings and reducing snow removal costs. The mention of cutting snow removal alarmed city councillors, but Paradine explained the idea is more about looking at streamlining the process and tools. 

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a reduction in service, just a way of us delivering service more efficiently and effectively,” he argues. “Maybe better vehicles, better route planning.” 

City Manager Dianne Hunter adds, “How we design our streets and how we proceed with snow clearing are good policy directions for council that does have an impact on energy use and our consumption and Greenhouse Gases.”

If all of the prioritized actions for 2014 were implemented, it’s estimated the City could save $20,000 in offsets purchases and $262,000 in energy cost savings.

“It’s kind of a synergy there,” says Paradine. “Usually when you’re reducing emissions you end up reducing your energy costs, which reduces our operating costs and potentially the tax burden on the public.” 

It was also recommended that the City look into setting up its own Climate Action Reserve Fund to invest in its own project and put a price on carbon internally. The City will be writing a letter to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the North Central Local Government Association, the leaders of B.C.’s political parties and the candidates running for office in Peace River North to express its desire to keep that money here instead of paying into the Pacific Carbon Trust.