Central Saanich wants CRD to implement a carbon budget to limit emissions

Some are calling for the Capital Region to start using real-time footage to show how much air pollution the region can still generate to limit the impact of climate change, rather than seeing the target as years away.

Central Saanich wrote a letter at the end of 2022 calling on the CRD to adopt a carbon budget and provide each member city annually with the estimated emissions remaining in their respective budgets.

Local municipalities have commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing emissions within a specific time frame – usually between 2030 and 2050. For example, Central Saanich aims to reduce its 2007 emissions levels by 45% by 2030.

Alternatively, a carbon budget could measure exactly how much can be emitted before passing a tipping point. Globally, they have been used to show how much pollutants could be emitted before average temperatures rose 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times – the scientific consensus is that this is the limit change needed to avoid or mitigate some of the most catastrophic climate damage .

CRD staff advised the region not to adopt a carbon budget, but to monitor the strategy’s approach and share those results with the intercity working group.

But the director of the Environmental Services Council opted for another option last month, and the CRD will hold a workshop bringing together experts, local city officials and staff to explore the opportunities and implications of a carbon budget.

“My only concern is that we’re not learning enough, I mean my gosh, we don’t have much time left,” said Central Saanich Coun Zeb King, whose motion led to a carbon budget advocacy letter.

“We’re shooting through those targets and not reaching them, but we’re also not doing the math against the limit to see how much more we can emit.”

The UK has successfully used the carbon budget to legally limit the amount of greenhouse gases it can emit over five years, a staff report says. On this side of the pond, Edmonton is using the concept and Victoria is currently exploring it.

But the staff report also said that developing a regional carbon budget would require either a common framework that is inconsistent with the goals of the individual CRD communities, or a set of mismatched budgets. It added that staff did not have the resources to complete regional budgets, which would raise conundrums over the CRD’s powers over local decision-making.

King, however, is grappling with some mixed messages from the CRD, as he says it relies on municipalities to take climate action, but it can sometimes be an obstacle when individual communities want to move faster.

Central Saanich wanted to withdraw from the regional climate action service and use the associated $74,000 it paid in 2023 to fund targeted emissions reduction projects at its borders, but the CRD board refused to withdraw last year.

Regional cooperation is good in theory, but those shared services need to be reassessed if the CRD fails to meet emissions targets, King said.

The CRD report states that the carbon budget is consistent with its aim of integrating climate action priorities at all levels of the decision-making process.

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