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Understanding Carbon Neutrality
Carbon neutrality involves measuring operational greenhouse gas emissions, reducing those where possible, offsetting the remainder and demonstrating leadership through public reporting. The commitment covers all public sector organizations (PSOs) including government offices, schools, post-secondary institutions, Crown corporations and hospitals.
Achieving carbon neutrality is a four-step process:
What is measured is managed
To become carbon neutral, PSOs accurately measure energy use from buildings, fleets, equipment and paper. Core government (government ministries and agencies) must also measure emissions from travel. 2010 is the first year for which the entire public sector has measured its GHG emissions.
To convert energy use to GHG emissions, B.C. has developed two online measurement tools that meet international standards: SMARTTool and SMARTTEC.
SMARTTool measures and aggregates energy use and emissions related to buildings, fleets, and paper. The tool was used by all PSOs to establish an emissions baseline for 2010. PSOs now use the tool on an ongoing basis to track their energy use, resulting emissions, and offset requirements.
SMARTTEC measures core government business travel emissions. Staff use the tool to explore various travel alternatives and make informed choices - balancing GHG reductions, cost savings and factors such as travel time. After traveling, staff enter information about their trip (distance travelled, mode of transportation, nights of accommodation, etc.) and the tool calculates the carbon footprint.
The 2012 Best Practices Methodology for Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions (PDF/1MB, Updated Oct 30, 2012) sets out the current best practices for quantifying and reporting greenhouse gas emissions from B.C.’s provincial public sector organisations. B.C.’s best practices represent a robust and continually improving catalogue of emissions factors and emissions calculation methodologies that have drawn heavily on established protocols and authoritative sources. This document also represents the consolidation of the previously stand alone versions of Public Sector, Local Government and Community Energy and Emissions Inventory (CEEI) emissions methodology guides. From a Public Sector perspective, the primary purpose of the updated methodolfogy document is to detail the emission factors and methodology used for calculating and reporting in-scope organisation emissions for the 2012 calendar year. Major changes and clarifications for 2012 include:
- updates to emission factors in line with annual updates to peer-reviewed documents and national and provincial emission factor inventories;
- The addition of pure biofuels (100% ethanol, biodiesel and biomethane) as distinct stationary fuel sources;
- A methodology to incorporate FortisBC’s renewable natural gas program;
- Four tiered efficiency options for purchased steam;
- Agricultural emission factors from the Community Energy and Emissions Inventory Technical Document;
- Clarification on customer billing on compressed natural gas: Gasoline Litre Equivalent compared to kilograms;
- Guidance on emissions from electric vehicles;
- An addendum providing carbon intensities and Smarttool functionality for select district energy systems is pending.
- A stand alone scope document has been created for Public Sector Organisations to help distinguish and clarify scope from methodologies;
- Public sector organisations will continue to report and offset emissions related to any space they lease (unless it is a capital lease) to a local government, regardless if that local government has achieved carbon neutrality;
- Non-wood fibre paper will be treated as in scope as it has a similar carbon intensity to 100% post-consumer recycled conventional paper products
Saving energy and costs
Leading by example, public sector employees across B.C. are taking tangible action to:
- Significantly reduce the carbon pollution produced by the public sector;
- Conserve energy (electricity and fossil fuels) and decrease operating costs;
- Engage their colleagues and customers in taking action;
- Transform how B.C. delivers public service in a new low-carbon economy; and
- Demonstrate a successful approach to addressing climate change.
B.C. Government took a major step forward in reducing B.C.’s public sector emissions when it introduced the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement in 2007. Through this agreement, $75 million was allocated to energy retrofit and renewable energy projects across the province.
Other successful initiatives include:
- Alternatives to Business Travel
Government’s high resolution “teleprescence” rooms reduce the need for travel
Although it is important that staff meet with citizens in communities across B.C., new tools on Government’s 36,000 workstations have allowed for collaboration online and have helped cut travel by approximately 60 per cent since 2008. The B.C. Government has also expanded and enhanced its videoconferencing. Employees now have access to close to 140 sites across the province including four new high-definition teleprescence sites.
On top of the obvious savings in reduced travel and over-time costs, there is also the benefit of less down-time when staff is in transit. Add to this the improved employee engagement and the benefits quickly cover the cost of installing technology.
- Energy-efficient Buildings
Deep Bay Field Station is Vancouver Island University’s first building to target a LEED Platinum rating
In 2007, B.C. committed that all new public sector buildings or major renovations must target LEED Gold certification. B.C. public organizations are now leading the charge with approximately 105 LEED Gold projects complete or underway. A number of organizations are choosing to go even further by pursuing the highest LEED certification level of Platinum. Some are even taking on the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge – a complementary rating system to achieve the highest level of sustainability currently possible.
Energy management plans that ensure building systems are being operated at optimal levels are in place across the core government and many public sector organizations are employing energy managers to take advantage of cost savings through lower energy use. For specific examples, see the individual carbon neutral action reports and the B.C.-wide update on the Carbon Neutral Reporting by Sector pages.
- Sustainable Procurement and Waste Reduction
100% recycled newspaper pencils from B.C. Government Distribution Centre
Waste disposal accounts for about five per cent of B.C.’s carbon emissions. The B.C. Public Service has a number of programs in place to reduce the waste generated by its business practices. These include:
- Full seven-stream recycling in many offices;
- An eWaste Recycling program to recycle end-of-life of computers, monitors and peripherals; and
- Easy Green Waste Reduction Guide – offering tips to help employees reduce their work-related waste streams, and to recycle waste that’s unavoidable.
- Behaviour Change
Bear mascot challenges B.C. Public Service staff to save energy in the winter during the 'Hibernation Challenge'
For example, the Government of B.C. launched its Green Team initiative in October 2007 and has seen hundreds of staff join teams in every ministry. The teams identify ways for government to reduce GHGs, and their creativity will transform how the government operates in the future. Green Teams also support the implementation and uptake of government-wide initiatives that encourage staff to reduce carbon pollution resulting from energy use in the office or commuting to work.
To read more about the hundreds of other carbon cutting actions taking place across B.C.’s public sector, visit these pages:
- CN Reporting by Sector
- PSECA Success Stories (Climate Action Secretariat website)
Investing in clean-tech and growing jobs across B.C.
While public sector organizations have reduced energy use, with today’s infrastructure it is not possible to achieve zero emissions. Therefore, to become carbon neutral the entire public sector must invest in enough high-quality emission reduction projects or “offsets” through Pacific Carbon Trust to reduce its emissions to net-zero.
Pacific Carbon Trust is a Crown corporation, set up by the B.C. Government in March 2008 to acquire credible GHG offsets from projects in communities across B.C. Projects meet stringent eligibility criteria as defined by the Ministry of Environment’s Offset Emissions Regulation. This means that we can be confident that our investment is leading to real and permanent emission reductions that are additional to what business is already required to do.
By reducing our own emissions where economical and then investing in high-quality offset projects, B.C. is supporting the growth of clean technology, small business opportunities and jobs in communities across the province. The B.C. public sector’s offset investment is in fact a small fraction – roughly five per cent – of the total capital invested in the offset projects supported by Pacific Carbon Trust.
It is important to note that carbon offsets are only part of the solution; they stimulate emission reductions and move us toward a low carbon society.
To read more about the emission reduction projects that B.C.’s public sector has invested in through the Pacific Carbon Trust, visit the PCT Offset Showcase.
Engaging the public and demonstrating success
B.C. is proud to report how it has achieved a carbon neutral public sector. As a government, we are accountable to the citizens of B.C. who have clearly shown support for climate leadership.
Reporting provides an idea bank for organizations looking to reduce their own energy use and carbon footprint. Starting in 2008, we now have four years of organizational carbon neutral reporting on the web.
2010 was the first year that that organizations have had to report their greenhouse gas emissions and, just as it is important that we invest in credible offset projects, accurate measurement and disclosure is an important part of achieving carbon neutrality. To ensure this, the Climate Action Secretariat engaged public sector organizations and developed an approach to verifying data that mirrors financial controls.
Annually, organizations are required to fill out a check-list and certify that they have accurately entered data into the online measurement tool (SMARTTool). As with financial reporting, senior staff must sign the document – demonstrating their confidence in their organization's energy and asset management. In addition, the Province will undertake a risk-based verification. This combination strikes a balance between rigor, cost and administrative requirements.